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SDHSAA, regents work to close coaching loophole

PIERRE -- A requirement meant to help veteran high school coaches update their skills has caught the attention of the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Paul Turman, of the Regents, discussed the requirement with the board of directors of the South Dakota High School Activities Association at the board's meeting Wednesday.

Currently, according to SDHSAA guidelines, coaches who work with athletes in grades nine through 12 must take a fundamentals of coaching course once during their career. Every two years, they must take a first aid course and every year they need to take a concussion in sport course. All the courses are offered through the website.

The website, in turn, becomes a database that allows administrators to check on new hires and current staff to see if their certification is up to date. Previously, athletic directors would have to follow a paper trail to see if their coaches had up-to-date certifications.

Turman said the Regents were concerned about fundamentals course. He said coaching fundamentals curriculum taught in college courses could be deemed unnecessary if students caught on to the fact that all they needed to have in order to be certified to coach was the $40 online course required by the SDHSAA.

If the SDHSAA course is the standard coaching requirement, Turman said, "then our coaching curriculum really is irrelevant."

Undercutting the Regents and the universities they oversee was not the intent of the regulation, according to board chairman Darren Paulson, of Rapid City.

"Our intention was just for seasoned coaches to get an update," Paulson said. "Our intention was to get our coaches refreshed."

Throughout the discussion, it became apparent that there are two kinds of coaches in South Dakota high schools: those who earned their certification through the regental system and those who are "coaches off the street" or community volunteers.

Board member Todd Trask said those volunteers are vital in small communities. He said the Wall School District has two varsity coaches who are volunteers.

Paulson said the same can be true in larger school districts.

"The reality of it is we're hiring coaches that don't have that background, have that degree," Paulson said.

Coaches off the street are necessary, but not the first choice for filling vacancies.

"I would rather have a coach that went through a course taught by a college coach," said board member Dan Whalen, of Pierre. "That's something that I don't want to see go away."

SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand suggested that perhaps the requirement for the coaching fundamentals course could be delayed. The example he gave was having college graduates who are certified to coach take the fundamentals course between their fifth and sixth year of coaching.

"A five-year window would probably be very acceptable" to the Regents, Turman said.

Krogstrand was directed by the board to develop language for the proposal that would be ready for action at the next meeting on June 11 in Pierre.