College coaches

Aug 18, 2016 Photo by Steve Peck

CWC would rather not have two vacancies this time of year, but interest in the jobs is high

The fall semester at Central Wyoming College starts shortly, and the college is working quickly to hire both a men's and women's basketball coach. Both positions are empty because the two coaches recently left for new jobs, one in Fremont County, one in New York City.Bruising and unavoidable budget reductions have hit all Wyoming's community colleges hard, and CWC's coaching positions have been affected. They pay less than they used to.This is not the position the college wanted to be at this late date, but here it is.

The vacancies put the student athletes arriving this month in an uncertain position, because the coach is the adult on campus they are counting on for their most important relationship, at least initially. Step one for any player upon arrival is finding the coach's office. At the moment, that office is empty.

A lot is being asked of the young athletes even before the uncertainty of arriving on campus without a coach to greet them. They are expected to be students. They are expected to be competitors. They are some of the most visible faces of CWC, a significant link in the vital chain between community and college. They are unofficial college ambassadors.

They also fill an important role behind the scenes, occupying student housing during a time when national evaluators rate housing occupancy by traditional college-aged students progressing toward degrees as a big part of a college's viability.

A couple of the basketball players usually are local students,and a few more may come from within Wyoming's borders. But just as many have traveled here from much farther afield, sometimes even from another country. Whoever is hired as their coach, it will not be the person who contacted them and their parents, will not be the person who visited their homes, will not be the person who convinced them to come to our college, and will not be the person who promised to help guide them through not just their sports season, but their first months away from home and the new life as a college student and athlete.

Coaching changes occur at all levels of sports, from Little League up. The possibility of a coaching change during a student's short playing career here always was present, but few probably imagined that change occurring before they even arrived. That, however, is the uncomfortable situation at hand, in both CWC locker rooms.

In the 1990s, CWC abandoned both basketball and volleyball for a decade. When they returned in the new century, it was with enthusiasm, to be sure, but also at considerable expense and exposure. Restoring the sports programs had to be done right, and it was. Those programs now are at perhaps their most important crossroad since that time. The economic hardships the college now faces helped create this difficult new situation, and the solution must be found within a very trying fiscal environment that didn't exist when the programs were revived.

Only one team wins the Region IX championship each year. Being the conference champ isn't a fair standard for judging the Rustler programs as successes or failures. But it is fair to expect that these young people who come to us and don the college uniform -- and, by extension, the community uniform as well -- have a level of institutional support to make them comfortable with their choice of school, and to keep them here for their allotted time.

CWC leaders reported recently that dozens of people have expressed interest in the women's coaching position, and it is hoped that there will be healthy interest for the men's job. It is mid-August now. The timing of the vacancies doesn't make the college's job easier, but these vacancies present opportunities for coaches.The right ones can make a success of it.

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