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Are Specialized Coaches An Advantage?
Ryan Kola ‘16 Staff Writer
February 25, 2015

A study produced by the Athletic Administration is providing important information about the high-profile, mainstream varsity sports among 10 chosen prep schools. In particular, it emphasizes how certain varsity teams might be supported to meet the increased competition among prep schools. The boys and girls teams studied include soccer, football, field hockey, ice hockey, basketball and lacrosse.

Rachel Yao

According to the study, Deerfield, St. Paul’s, and Lawrenceville are the top three schools with the most head varsity coaches who teach, with eight of the ten coaches being part-time teachers.

While Deerfield is starting to slip in terms of competitive performance, Athletic Director Charles “Chip” Davis emphasizes the importance of the education of young people, particularly that all sports, irrespective of level, should be a positive learning experience for both the player and the coach: the Deerfield mission.

Mr. Davis explained, “Deerfield has always subscribed to the triple-threat model. The first skill set being sought after when hiring faculty members is the teaching or administrative skill; second, coaching; and third, whether the person can play a residential role, full-time or as an associate.”

It is notable that Deerfield is very successful in sports not included in the study, like water polo, skiing, golf, and crew which don’t use outside coaching. At the head coaching level, the only teams with outside coaches at Deerfield are diving, skiing and baseball.

Justin Xiang ’16, a varsity swimmer, pointed out, “While many students think of Deerfield teams as [always having] the teacher-coach model, I think outside trainers can be useful for a team’s performance. There is no harm in having extra experience.”

Varsity hockey player Andrew Hadley ’16 responded, “I won’t say I have less respect for outside trainers, but they don’t seem as connected and involved in the program. A coach who also teaches here would care more about each individual player on a level more than just the person’s athletic abilities and more than just the overall record.”

Mr. Davis explains that records are not wholly the result of faculty coaching experience. Records depend on time coaches can give, as well as Deerfield’s ability to attract talented student athletes. Correspondingly, success rates are natural outcomes based on applicants and the student body at the time. However, the study also indicated that many of the successful seasons various schools enjoyed invovled the help of outside coaches.

“Other schools are perhaps more inclined to hire coaches strategically, either as outside specialists, or as a ‘first threat,’” Mr. Davis said. “DA pursues this strategy very infrequently.”

Despite other schools’ statistics, the Athletic Department is choosing not to depend fully on outside coaches. While other schools that do prioritize sports experience good seasons, the Athletic Department believes that there are limits in trying to improve many sports at once. Based on a well-rounded student and faculty body, the Deerfield mission tries to balance the competitive edge in sports with the Deerfield triple-threat tradition.