St. Maries school officials are asking trustees for an additional paid assistant coaching position for their wrestling team.

The request was made at the district’s January 13 meeting, with wrestling coach Dennis Humphrey making the request alongside Trustee Pete Dirlam, a volunteer coach. High School Activities Director Todd Gilkey was not present, but also lent his support to the request.

The supporters said the extra coaching staff is necessary to deal with wrestling’s unique requirements, which place a significant burden on the district’s paid and volunteer coaches. Unlike other sports, wrestling often runs multiple matches at the same time during tournaments, requiring coaches to split their attention between them.

“If we didn’t have volunteer coaches, it’s too hard for one guy to coach two or three kids at a time,” Mr. Gilkey said. “We’ve been fortunate to have so many volunteers willing to take part in the program; we’re just trying to do what’s best for them.”

In addition, Mr. Dirlam said that the work volunteers do with students is comprehensive, requiring special knowledge and significant time commitments.

“I’ve worked with kids on academics, workout management, home issues and everything,” he said. “It’s tough.”

In the school district, many sports programs support multiple paid coaching positions. For instance, the football program has three assistant coaches on payroll, with multiple teams to supervise.

The reason for that, Mr. Gilkey said, is the number of wrestling students; the program currently has approximately 16 members. However, the members are kept in one team, despite age, weight class and skill divisions. Proponents also said the unique structure and requirements of the sport – including strict weight management of athletes, planning for tournaments and other factors – placed a greater burden on coaches and volunteers.

“Our numbers are kind of small, so I understand the reasoning, but we’re trying to look at how many kids are on a team,” he said.

Mr. Gilkey said the athletics program is looking to the wrestling programs of other districts to determine what sort of changes the program might need. Trustees took no action at the meeting.

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