Coaches of spring sports in city high schools — Stamford and Westhill — will be getting paid in full.
Because of the coronavirus shutdown and the cancelation of the spring high school sports season, coaches at the two public Stamford high schools were in danger of having their coaching stipends cut in half for the season.
Last week, the Board of Education voted to give the coaches their full pay for the spring, despite no games being played.
As part of proposed budget cuts in the city, coaches would not have received the second of two paychecks they get during the season. They received the first half of their pay earlier in the spring.
Coaches said that even though no games were played, that does not mean they were not still mentoring their players.
“Just because I’m not hitting fungos doesn’t mean I’m not coaching,” Stamford varsity baseball coach Rit Lacomis said. “All coaches have put in time past what we get paid even before the season starts. By the time the season starts, we have put in so many hours, already. We know a lot of people are hurting right now. But the truth is, we feel undervalued. The money is already in the budget and allotted to be given to us.”
Lacomis and others were actively supporting coaches during this process and writing letters of concern to the Board of Education.
Coaches who are also teachers in the schools were not going to have their teaching salaries cut.
The coaches were informed near what would have been the start of the spring season that they would only be receiving half of their pay.
Coaches in Stamford are normally paid twice a season, once halfway through and once at the end. Under this proposal, the coaches only received the midseason payment.
The money for the spring season was already allotted under last year’s budget.
What many do not realize is that coaching responsibilities, especially in city schools, go far beyond the Xs and Os of game day.
Coaches frequently act as guidance counselors and are often the first ones called by teachers when a student athlete is not meeting expectations in the classroom.
That has continued with students distance learning this spring.
“A lot of times, we are the first person teachers call when things are not getting done in the classroom with a kid because they know he or she is on a team,” Lacomis said. “We have been a support system, even more with the kids being out of school. We have had Zoom meetings with the kids and then had one-on-ones with almost every kid, especially kids having a hard time with doing school at home.”
Coaches who work in the school are often the first-line of defense for students who may otherwise fall through the cracks academically or socially.
Add to that, offseason workouts and camps, helping students get into college, and in some cases making sure student athletes are fed and safe at home.
“Seventy-five percent of the gig is maintenance and upkeep of the program, and 25% is games and practices,” Stamford boys lacrosse coach Mike Nazzaro said. “I put my heart and soul into making sure kids are set up for success beyond high school. We do spend a lot of time with kids in the offseason.”
Nazzaro has been instrumental helping many of his players not only learn the game of lacrosse, but go on to play the sport in college.
He has built up the Stamford program over the years in part by spending countless hours helping players with everything from equipment donations, rides to and from practice as well as academic help when needed.
Every year, students who had never held a lacrosse stick until meeting Nazzaro, go on to play the sport in college.
In the towns of Darien, New Canaan and Greenwich spring coaches are also being paid in full.
Norwalk has proposed giving its coaches 10% of their pay while Danbury, Bridgeport, Westport, New Haven and other muncipalities have cut, or are proposing cutting spring coaches pay entirely.
While there have not been games, nearly every team has still conducted special moments for their senior players.
From drive-by parades for senior players to signing days held outside the school for seniors going on to play sports in college.
Despite the threat of not being paid, coaches were still there for their players during the spring.
“Even if we aren’t getting paid, we will still do senior day and honor the kids in the program,” Lacomis said. “That’s what coaches do for their players.”