Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Response to former Bellevue Footballer

(This post started as a response to a Bellevue Football player in the comments here. It got so long that it deserved its own post.)

Anonymous Former Bellevue Footballer,

I do appreciate you stepping up and giving your side of the argument. I have several responses.

You talk about the "life lessons" that coach Goncharoff has taught you. That's wonderful, and I don't doubt that's true. Is the football field the ONLY place that such life lessons can be taught? Heck no. Those life lessons go on at Bellevue High every day. They're taught by the swimming, golf, and cross-country coaches. They're taught by the coaches of the debate team and the math team. They're taught by the AP Literature teacher and the remedial math teacher. Just because you didn't learn them in those places doesn't mean they're not taught. In fact, if you gave me a week, I could locate an alumnus as enthusiastic about the lessons they learned from those individuals as you are about Coach Goncharoff. So--to return to my post's original question, which you ignored--why does your coach deserve $55K more than these people? Why is football more important than these other activities?

You say that coach Goncharoff works many unpaid hours. I know he does: all coaches in all sports do, as do all activity advisors, as do all teachers. The way to solve that is to increase pay for everyone, not to exorbitantly award one person just because he coaches a successful team in a popular sport.

Your statement that Bellevue football is "perhaps the only reason certain academic and other athletic programs exist at the school" is completely unbacked. What teams have been born due to the incredible success of the football team? The Bellevue debate team, as of when I last saw them, didn't appear to be any larger than it was before Bellevue started winning all of those state championships.

Why does Bellevue deserve an excellent coach more than, for example, Interlake does? Why should well-off parents get to gain an unfair advantage for their team by paying their coach twelve times more than the coaches at other schools in Kingco 3A make? Shouldn't the playing field be equal? Why reward the rich at the expense of the poor? Wouldn't coach Goncharoff make just as much of an impact on students of lesser means than those at a relatively well-off school like Bellevue?

If Goncharoff taught you all of these life lessons but went 4-5 every year, do you think the parents would be paying him $55K? I sure don't. I'd bet a big chunk of cash that life lessons matter a lot less to the booster club than Bellevue's four state championships.

On top of that, let me give you a few quick questions:

In spite of Bellevue's excellent academic record, nearly 25% of their 10th-grade students didn't reach state standard in math on the WASL. For $55,000, the booster club could hire two instructional aides for an entire year to tutor them--including struggling football players--for the retake. What's more important, students' graduation or state championships?

For $55,000, the booster club could have paid tuition for two needy Bellevue students--football players or otherwise--to attend the University of Washington for four years each. What's more important, that or the team's won-loss record?

Do you see where I think that the priorities are off here? I'm not anti-football, anti-sports, or anti-Goncharoff. I'm anti-excess. And $55K for a high school coach is both misplaced and excessive.

The saddest part of all of this, at least as I see it, is the damage these few misguided parents will do to the reputation of both Bellevue High School and its football team. Before, the team was admired for its skill and work ethic. Now, fairly or otherwise, the team is perceived as having misguided priorities and an unfair advantage over its competitors. That perception casts a shadow on everyone associated with the school and the team, and that's a shame.

(I'll leave the bigger equity arguments to MCMC's comments, which are on the money. It's awful that the rich can afford to uneven the playing field both academically AND athletically.)


Anonymous said...

Someone once told me that you can never truly understand something from the outside looking in, but that instead you have to be a part of that something to truly understand the significance. I played for Coach Goncharoff and the one underlying tone that everyone seems to forget is that NO ONE in the entire state outworked us. Was Coach Goncharoff getting paid $55,000 a year when we won our first three titles? No. People just simply don't understand the amount of time we players put in to producing a championship team. We were in the weight room six days a week, the day after we lost to Prosser...literally. People can say what they want about my Coach, but no math teacher, no golf coach, no deabte club can possibly teach you the life lessons that he taught us simply because no one puts in any comparable amount of time to the time that we put in. No one wants to hear that side of it, they want to see it one way and one way only, so while I can't change the views of others I can look back at my four years of playing under coach Goncharoff and say thank God for that man, he changed my life.

TeacherRefPoet said...

You can't have it both ways, Anonymous. You can't say "you can never truly understand something from the outside looking in" in one sentence and then say "no math teacher, no golf coach, no deabte club can possibly teach you the life lessons that he taught us simply because no one puts in any comparable amount of time to the time that we put in" in the next breath. ONLY football players put in work, and ONLY Bellevue football players? Sorry, but that's myopic.

The three biggest HS influences in my life were my choir director, my debate coach, and my AP English teacher. I learned as much from them about life, work ethic, and what is valuable in the world than you did from Coach Goncharoff. Twenty years down the road, and I still think about each of them, just as you will think of Coach Goncharoff. So while I'm glad you had a great experience with him, you can't convince me that he's worth twenty debate coaches (at least financially). That's simply offensive. Your life lessons are not worth twenty of mine.

Someone once told me that you can never really understand something until you've stepped outside of it and gained a little perspective. You state that I "want to see it one way and one way only," but I'd encourage you to consider another way of seeing on this issue. Football players' needs do not merit 20 times the needs of everyone else. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a few people here are haters and need to worry about something else.

Anonymous said...

teacherrefpoet ask yourself this- do you believe the people you listed as being large influences in your life from high school deserve an extra 55k a year?

coach makes everyone that plays for him a better person, and does what very few coaches know how to do- make a team family. you'll probably say that "all football coaches do that" etc, but if they did why dont more teams win state 5 out of 6 years?

TeacherRefPoet said...

Interesting question, Anonymous.

I'd say the answer is high school choir teacher, debate coach, and AP English teacher, as well as every single one of my big influences deserves an extra $55K a year, or even way more than that. And all the people imparting huge influences in the Bellevue District outside of Coach Goncharoff also deserve pay raises--every single teacher and every single coach. To ONLY give a pay raise to Coach Goncharoff--and such an exorbitant one, too, equal to nearly double the salary of a first-year teacher--is a slap in the face to all those people.

It's also offensive to give $55K to Goncharoff and not to the coaches of less-affluent schools like Interlake or Sammamish. That sends a message the rich kids' needs are more important than poor kids' needs.

I reject the premise of your last paragraph, which says that you win because you feel like a family. Bellevue also has loads of talented athletes who work damn hard, as I'm sure you will attest. I think that's certainly a factor in why you win. Many of the teams you defeat feel as close to each other as your Wolverines do--but you're simply a better team than they are due to talent.

In any event, the booster club's decision to pay him actually hurts you, the players, most of all. When you continue to pile up championships now, the public won't say "Wow, look at those hard-working, talented kids." Instead, they'll say "Look, they had an unfair advantage. They paid their coach an obscene, exorbitant extra amount. I wonder if that's the only advantage you had?" In this way, the booster club parents inadvertently hurt you.

I do respect the work that you do, and the work that Coach Goncharoff does. But it's not worth such an excessive amount of money, especially when compared to the wonderful hard work people do elsewhere in your building and in your district.

In any event, if I understood the news correctly, the extra $55K isn't going to be legal anymore now, so this argument is obsolete.

Best of luck to you this season.