Wanted: a plumber to teach the 2-3 zone
Montville — Imagine the absurdity of the following:
A phlebotomist teaching gap integrity to young defensive linemen.
A plumber called upon to install the Princeton offense.
A receptionist asked to teach the grip on a changeup.
And yet this is who the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference prefers to teach offseason skill development to our kids. Here we are, awash in another summer, no closer to high school coaches — the way they can in most other states — able to instruct the kids they coach during their seasons.
“It’s continuous. It's outrageous. Something hopefully will be done soon because it's not fair to the kids,” said Andy Walker, perhaps better known as the coach who delivered state softball championship No. 5 to Waterford High in 2019.
Except that Tuesday night, Walker was a basketball coach, working with the hooping Lancers in the Genesis Girls’ Summer League at St. Bernard.
“I love coaching basketball,” Walker said, “but for programs to thrive now, coaches have to be more involved. What is the harm in area coaches working on skill development? It just doesn't make sense to me. It's archaic. Other states allow it.”
Walker is hardly alone working beyond his area of expertise. The CIAC’s unwillingness to join the 21st century has led to coaches from different sports and different schools giving of their time in the summer.
New East Lyme boys’ basketball coach Tim Strong was coaching at Montville last summer, but coached the NFA boys’ team in the summer league. NFA boys’ coach Dave Cornish is coaching the NFA girls. New Fitch girls’ coach Falecia Porter ended up coaching the Waterford team for a night earlier this summer when Waterford coach Kaitlyn Sullivan didn’t have anyone else. Dan Spellman has come out of retirement to coach the Waterford boys. Recent East Lyme grad Rowan Mundell, part of last season’s league championship team, even made a cameo to help out with the summer Vikings.
“Courtney (NFA coach Courtney Gomez) asked me to coach the girls and I was happy to,” Cornish said. “I watch all her games and talk strategy with her all the time. But it’s ridiculous we have to do this.
“What is wrong with us coaching our summer league team? I can see not allowing it in the fall when other fall sports are in session. But the summer? It’s not taking away from anyone else. I don’t need to practice 2-3 times a week. I just want to coach my team in the summer league.”
Sullivan: “It’s not that difficult. Two days a week of open gym, where we're running through some drills that are routine parts of our practice. Shooting drills, dribbling drills, box out drills. Now on the first day of practice, we’ll have to explain everything and waste a half hour. And then instead of having to spend a ton of time in those first two weeks working on skills, we can jump right into different sets and then still find time to work on the skills.”
Two years ago, the Southern Connecticut Conference recognized the coaching clamor and offered CIAC a detailed plan about offseason coaching. The CIAC’s response, sent to The Day, included four pros and 12 cons. The movement has stalled.
The cons: “1. Overuse injuries. 2. Demands on facilities. 3. Increased parental issues. 4. Pits students against jobs. 5. Pits students against family vacation. 6. Increase workload on AD. 7. Coaching contacts/compensation. 8. More beneficial to affluent communities. 9. Increased cost for insurance, maintenance, custodial, etc. 10. Program equity within a school. 11. Opens the door for non-school programs to infiltrate the CIAC season. 12. Perception coaches will be extorting funds from athletes for out-of-season programs as a condition of team membership.”
I have no idea what most of those even mean, let alone as to how they apply to, for example, Gomez trying to teach one of her kids a V-cut at 5 o’clock on a summer Tuesday night. But then, it’s the CIAC.
“I don't understand why Connecticut has the rules the way they are. They’re detrimental,” Porter said. “I understand that you can't force kids to come in the offseason period. But why not allow the kids who actually want to improve to get good quality coaching? It makes no sense to me.”
Sounds like a good motto for the way Connecticut high school sports are run: “Makes no sense to me.”
Meanwhile, a tip of the cap to Porter who runs the girls’ league and Cornish who runs the boys’ league for at least giving the kids and coaches something. They could be doing plenty of other things on nice summer nights than sweating in gyms. They do it because they care.
“It’s the community aspect,” said Porter, a young woman of deep faith who co-owns Progression Training in Groton with her husband (and former New London/Avery Point great) Keith Porter. “It's not like we're doing anything more than just serving our community. And really, that's what the gospel is all about.”
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro