The school wrestling team in St. Maries will not receive a second paid coaching position this year, trustees decided.

School trustees declined to pay another wrestling coach for the 2020 season, saying that one would likely not be useful so late in the wrestling season. However, they said that such a position would be useful, and that they would work to address it during budget discussions for the next school year.

The need for a second paid coach was raised by Coach Dennis Humphrey, Activities Director Todd Gilkey and Trustee Pete Dirlam in a previous board meeting. They said wrestling demands a large amount of time from both the paid coach and several volunteers, and that an additional paid coaching position would alleviate the problem.

Proponents cited a number of reasons, including student safety and practicality. Due to state requirements, each wrestling match must be overseen directly by certified personnel. However, should an injury require a coach or volunteer to take a student to a hospital, the remaining team members could be left unable to participate.

In addition, Mr. Dirlam said there are and increasing number of girls participating in the co-ed sport, with approximately five expected to participate next year. This can have the additional effect of splitting the volunteers and coaches available between boys and girls events, further increasing the chance of a conflict.

St. Maries sports programs frequently hire multiple coaches – both paid positions and volunteers – in order to better train student athletes and ensure safety in school sports. Of the district’s sporting programs, three sports – wrestling, golf and cheerleading – have only one coach, while all others have two or more.

Mr. Dirlam, himself a wrestling volunteer, pushed for a new coach to be hired for the remainder of the current wrestling season, as well as for them to be retroactively paid for their contributions.

“We have three more weeks, which brings us to the state tournament,” he said. “It would pay the other person who’s been the volunteer other than me, but it wouldn’t increase the people we have. It would be a relatively small amount of money.”

Other trustees, however, questioned whether adding a paid position would be beneficial so late in the season. Superintendent Alica Holthaus pointed out that any paid positions would need to be hired for, requiring at minimum one and a half weeks, meaning only two events would be affected.

Further, they said that paying for a position would not increase the number of volunteers, and so would not alleviate the safety concerns.

“Paying somebody doesn’t solve the numbers issue,” Trustee Jody Hendrickx said. “I understand the point Pete’s talking about, but at this late in the game I don’t think we should be going forward with it, especially at the tail end of the season.”

Mr. Hendrickx did say that a further coaching position would be beneficial, and suggested that it would be included in budget discussions in the future. In addition, trustees said that they may also consider additional coaching positions for the three other single-coach programs.

“I’d rather take care of it all at one time,” Trustee Sandy Kennelly said. “If we’re going to do it for one sport, we need to look at all of our sports.”

Following discussion, Trustee Dirlam introduced a motion to create a paid coaching position, but the motion died for lack of a second. However, trustees directed Mrs. Holthaus and the district to include additional paid coaching positions in budget discussions for the next school year. Budget discussions are set to start at the district’s March meeting.

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