The Phoenix are looking for their third football coach in three years.
This time around, Oberlin plans to take its time and hire the right person for the job — for not just next year but for years to come.
In January, Garrett Mack resigned his position as the head coach to accept a job as the linebackers’ coach at Oberlin College. Mack was the coach at Oberlin High School for one season after being hired last year to replace Michael Law and led the Phoenix to a 4-6 record.
The next coach will be the fourth for the program in the past five years. Over the last four years, Oberlin has a combined record of 10-30.
Superintendent David Hall doesn’t think the lack of success on the football field and the continuous turnover of coaches is a coincidence.
“To have consistency with a coach and to know them for three or four years, which builds faith in the program, is critical for the kids,” Hall said. “To have a coach that is visible, in the building, or lifting weights with them is huge for the kids to have. “To build a winning program, you need a consistency all the way through. The last three years, the kids have kind of been in limbo.”
Hall loves the game of football and believes it can have a positive influence on the students who play it in high school. Not only did he play, but both of his sons played; one of his sons is now an assistant coach at Lorain High School.
Football is no longer just an activity that takes place from late summer through the fall, according to Hall. Instead, it’s an all-year endeavor.
“We need a coach that’s going to do the grind. To me that’s critical,” he said. “You need someone that’s going to put the work in. It’s not just a seasonal thing; it’s an all-year program. Right now, they should be lifting weights in the offseason, going to football camps, and working on skills. Those things are critical all year.”
The district is also looking for someone that not only works with the high school team but puts an imprint on the entire Oberlin football program.
“Our new athletic director (John Carter, who was hired in June 2016) has been really huge in trying to find the right person for that job. We believe the head coach should be responsible for the program all the way down,” Hall said. “They should be working their team from the pee-wee football league level all the way up to the high school level. They should be connecting with the community to make sure they’re watching the kids all the way up. Our football coaches should be at the basketball game, watching them, and be involved with the kids’ lives.”
That begs the question: Why has Oberlin had such a hard time keeping coaches recently?
Sometimes it’s difficult to keep coaches because they want a teaching position, Hall said: “We don’t have a lot of openings, especially openings in their certification areas. You’re a teacher first, and a coach second, so we’re looking for qualified teachers to go to our positions. We’re very cognizant of that piece.”
Hall also believes coaches need to understand that, maybe more than with other districts, Oberlin has student-athletes who are involved in many different activities.
“It can be difficult at times coaching at a smaller school because a lot of our kids have choices of what they play. We have a lot of sports here. Students may be in the band, football, and may have concert activities over the weekend,” he said. “Our kids are involved in a lot of activities. A new coach coming in will have to understand that. It’s not like what you may have at a bigger school system with kids that just play football and maybe basketball. Our kids are well-rounded. They take part in a lot of activities, clubs, and community services.”
Ideally, Hall would love to see the district hire a coach who teaches in the district and is able to be more of a mentor to the students.
“Ideally, we’d have some staff in there as coaches that can watch over the kids, monitoring the students’ grades, mentoring them, setting up field trips for them, working with the teachers and principals, as well as the administrative staff,” he said. “It’d be great to have somebody in the building do that with them.”
Oberlin has been accepting applications for the head coach position since Mack resigned. Hall expects Carter to begin sitting down with candidates for interviews soon.
They hope to have the position filled by April 1.
Hiring the right coach is important to Hall because he believes Phoenix football can once again be a source of pride for the community.
“I want our kids to have the experience that I had playing football,” he said. “I want to build that program all the way through and give the kids that opportunity to go to the playoffs. The feeling of having the community behind you like that, our kids deserve that. We have great athletes here.
“We need a coach that’s going to get the kids to buy into it.”
Scott Mahoney can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @sm_mahoney on Twitter.
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