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Other RSUs/MSADs forgo payments

Despite no spring season, district pays coaches' stipends

“These coaches committed to us and to our athletes before COVID-19, I felt that we should commit to them.” — Matt Lash
By Mark Haskell | May 22, 2020
Artwork by: Holly Vanorse Spicer Medomak Valley High School Panther and Medomak Middle School Riverhawk.

While many schools have opted not to pay athletic coaches' stipends because the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic canceled the spring seasons, one Midcoast district has bucked that trend and will pay coaches in full.

At a meeting on Thursday, May 7, the Regional School Unit/Maine School Administrative District 40 Board approved — though not unanimously — to award full stipends to spring coaches at Medomak Valley High School and Medomak Middle School.

Of note, RSU 71 (Belfast Area High School), RSU 28 (Camden Hills Regional High School), RSU 3 (Mount View High School), RSU 20 (Searsport District High School) and Vinalhaven School will not pay spring coaches.

RSU 13 (Oceanside High School) has yet to make a determination regarding spring stipends.

North Haven Community School and Islesboro Central School do not offer full-fledged spring school sports, but do occasionally have independent athletes participate in outdoor track, or, in North Haven's case, baseball and softball with Vinalhaven, but may still have stipend coaches.

The thought not to pay stipends for coaches who did not/will not work the months of April through June because the sports seasons were canceled in mid-March can be justified.

However, Medomak Valley athletic director Matt Lash summed it up succinctly: “These coaches committed to us and to our athletes before COVID-19, I felt that we should commit to them.”

“I felt from the beginning of this that our coaches should receive some level of compensation,” he said. "Coaching, especially at the varsity level, is a year-round commitment. In preparation for this season at varying levels, we had coaches working with their athletes last summer and with youth in the summer, fall, and winter. They participate in professional development and any meetings that are required or a part of their coaches' groups. Additionally, some coaches completed work to upgrade their facilities last summer and fall. Even though their spring season runs from the end of March through early June, there is a lot that goes on before it all begins.”

Lash said the amount of stipends being paid to spring coaches and assistant coaches at MVHS is $18,974 and MMS $6,701.

Many Maine schools are not paying full stipends, while others are paying half or varying degrees of percentages. Of note, Waterville Senior High School, Cheverus High School of Portland, Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor, Brewer High School, Morse High School of Bath and Lewiston High School also are awarding full stipends to coaches, in addition to other state schools.

Some, however, are not.

RSU 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean said, “While it makes sense to pay people a full amount for year-round stipends, it doesn’t make sense to pay spring coaches for work that was never started.”

MSAD 28 Superintendent Maria Libby echoed those sentiments, saying “It just didn't make sense to pay spring sports stipends for a season that did not happen, as we recognized this is not a primary source of income for our coaches.

Lash said there were conversations galore about stipends at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association meetings the past two months.

He added Panther/Riverhawk coaches were given the option of earning their stipend this spring through developing an alternative work plan, though that was not a requirement to receive their stipend.

Not taking part in the alternative work plan would “not reflect their commitment to our kids or programs as they are ready to be involved when in-person coaching opportunities hopefully become available in their sport on July 6 or next year,” said Lash.

Lash said coaches also are a support system, of sorts, for MVHS student-athletes.

“Encouraging coaches to make contact with their athletes, provide/ host workouts and have team meetings remotely, and, most importantly, stress to them the importance of staying engaged with their teachers and learning through the end of the school year is the focus,” he said. “With the shift to technology during the pandemic, the professional development opportunities have become endless for coaches and educators. One resource has been nationwide college coaching clinics via Zoom that have been made available through the MIAAA, among others. Lastly, what better time to make facility improvements then when they are not being used. Coaches will also continue to use this spring and early summer to help me make improvements. There is always work to do and a long list of projects to complete has come out of this process.”

Lash said he hopes teams and coaches will be able to meet “to do some skill work, even if limited and in small groups” after July 6, which is the first allowable day for in-person coaching after the Maine Principals’ Association adjusted its guidelines this year in the wake of COVID-19. The two-week hands off period during the first two weeks of August also has been waived.

“Since it has never happened before, it is hard to measure the impact of losing an entire season when it comes to development, so anything we can do safely and within the guidelines to support these student-athletes, coaches, and programs is a top priority,” he said.

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