Sports

Some Denver high school sports teams forced to use replacement coaches during teachers strike


As the Denver Public Schools teachers’ strike began Monday, its effects were already being felt by high school sports teams across the city — especially those whose head coaches are participating in the walkout.

While the district announced varsity games are being played as scheduled, “coaches who are teachers and are part of the strike cannot coach,” DPS media relations director Will Jones said. That’s forcing many teams, such as Thomas Jefferson boys basketball, to quickly draw up a contingency plan.

“I typed up a practice plan for my freshman coach and my non-paid volunteer coach, and they’re going to run the varsity practice (Monday),” said Spartans varsity coach and striking teacher Grant Laman. “I may have to have our freshman coach at Tuesday’s varsity game.”

The question of whether to stand firm with fellow colleagues on strike — as more than half of DPS teachers did today amid unresolved wage negotiations — or keep working amid the strike becomes more emotionally complicated for teacher-coaches. Basketball is in the final week of the regular season and wrestling has its regional round Saturday.

“If this goes into another week and we’re in the postseason, I’ll have to make a tough decision about whether to cross the picket line,” Laman said. “It would not be to weaken the teachers’ stance, but simply to coach my basketball team in the postseason. My seniors and my team deserve that.”

Many of the district’s big-school varsity coaches aren’t teachers and have full-time jobs outside of the education system, limiting the effect of the strike on programs. But at Denver North, girls basketball coach Erin Olson explained how her program and Vikings athletics overall are “in a more unique situation than others.”

“In girls basketball, all six paid positions and the three volunteer coaches are DPS educators,” Olson said. “One of our two-days-a-week volunteers will coach the C team, and the JV coach has decided to continue to work and coach the JV. For the varsity, we have someone completely unaffiliated with our program who is scheduled to coach the games on Tuesday and Thursday night.

“So during (Tuesday’s) game, the varsity will have somebody who has never attended a practice and never been on our bench as our primary coach. That’s obviously not an ideal situation.”

Less than ideal, too, is the pressing issue in North’s wrestling room, where senior heavyweight Max Tayofa is coming off a title at the city championships over the weekend. But because Vikings varsity coach Gabe Aguilera is also a striking teacher, Tayofa is now down both a coach and a drill partner.

The Vikings don’t have another heavyweight student-athlete to take Aguilera’s place in the practice room, so the school is bringing in an outside coach to work with Tafoya. Even still, Aguilera’s heart is heavy for a wrestler who he said has overcome a lot of off-the-mat adversity for the serious chance to make a run at qualifying for the state tournament.

Aguilera, like Laman and Olson, desired a workaround to the strike’s no-coaching rule by potentially …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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