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Dayton schools’ new policy, coaching shortage puts two teams in limbo

Welcome Stadium hosts Dayton Public Schools football games as well as district athletic offices.
Welcome Stadium hosts Dayton Public Schools football games as well as district athletic offices.

Dayton Public Schools has changed part of its sports coaching approach, hoping to build stronger athletic programs, but some supporters worry the new plan will leave some athletes unable to compete.

DPS Athletic Director Shawna Welch said the district no longer wants people to be head coaches in back-to-back seasons in most cases (fall and winter, or winter and spring). Both Welch and Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said those coaches don’t have enough time to focus on each sport, including pre-season conditioning and athlete recruiting.

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Earl White has coached both football and wrestling at Belmont for several years after more than a decade at Thurgood Marshall. But he said this year when he applied, he was told he could not coach wrestling. Belmont has had a small wrestling team the past few years, with less than five athletes competing at the sectional tournament.

Longtime DPS teacher, coach and sports supporter Brian Urquhart said the same situation will be in play at Meadowdale later this year, where Chad Miller has coached both girls basketball and girls track. Meadowdale’s track team has struggled the past few years, but Miller coached them to a state championship in 2014 and state runner-up finish in 2015.

With Miller coaching girls basketball, Welch confirmed there is no coach currently in place for Meadowdale girls track.

Welch said only one other person applied for the Belmont wrestling coach position, which pays $5,807, but that person later withdrew their name, leaving no one to coach. On Thursday, six days after coaching and practice were supposed to begin, Welch said she was still trying to figure out what to do with Belmont wrestling.

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She said she’s waiting on a list of interested wrestlers so she can determine whether a coach is needed, or, if it’s a very small number of athletes, whether they could practice with another DPS high school’s team, under that coach, then wrestle for Belmont in competitions.

“It’s not financially sound for us to have a full-fledged program if we only have two or three kids interested,” Welch said, adding that DPS has no pay-to-play fees to support the athletic department. “No real decision can be made until we have numbers.”

White said he’s willing to coach if needed. After hearing that Welch is looking for a list of interested kids, White said Thursday night that he would work on that Friday, the last day of school before DPS’ weeklong Thanksgiving break.

Welch said if there are enough athletes that Belmont needs its own coach, she would consider letting White coach, but added that’s not her first choice.

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“Our idea here is that we want people to build programs, not just coach,” Welch said. “If you’re building a football program, it’s something that you should be working on year-round, not just in the summer or in football season. … This might be an opportunity for Coach White to start to mentor a younger coach.”

Urquhart spoke out on the issue at Tuesday’s school board meeting, saying White and Miller are excellent coaches as well as strong role models, and should be allowed to coach.

Welch said she is trying to change perceptions of the DPS athletic department after a string of recent high-profile problems, largely at Dunbar, and most recently a Dunbar football player head-butting a game official.

“We want Dayton Public Schools to be a school district where other schools say, hey, I want to play them – they’re competitive,” Welch said. “With everything that has happened in the last couple years, we have a lot of districts that say, nope, not DPS. … We’re fighting to change the image of this district.”

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White pointed out that he’s taken teams to the playoffs (at both Thurgood and Belmont) while coaching both sports. He said DPS has long struggled to find enough coaches, and said as a Belmont teacher who sees students everyday, he wants to give opportunities to any student who wants to participate.

Welch said that will still happen – she’s just trying to figure out the best path.