Not only will there be a new batch of student-athletes whose names will be printed on these pages, but there will be, in some cases, new coaches leading those programs.
With each of the county’s six high schools sponsoring nearly two dozen varsity programs, there’s bound to be some turnover each year. Every year, retirement, new opportunities and even underperformance take their toll and require the district to make new hires.
Any athletic director, veteran coach or dedicated fan can attest to how much a team can benefit from stability in coaching. This sports editor will tell you that stability in coaching also leaves its mark in newsprint.
So far, there haven’t been an overwhelming number of changes entering the 2014-15 school year.
River Ridge has seen the most turnover, with five programs making transitions, and the school introducing a new athletic director.
Scott Krug, who was the athletic director down the road at Woodstock, took on that role for the Knights following the retirement of Mike Baker. The county’s newest school also welcomes new coaches in boys basketball (Ben Farist), cross country (Keith Hooper), volleyball (Deb Lea), girls golf (Tracye Bulger) and boys tennis (Jane Morris).
Baker and several of the departing coaches had been at the school since it opened six years ago.
However, not all the replacements are new to the school. Farist, Hooper and Lea served as assistant coaches in their respective sports prior to taking over the head-coaching duties for the upcoming year.
Farist is a familiar name in the county, as a Sequoyah graduate and the son of longtime Sequoyah basketball coach Mark Farist, while Bulger was a successful swimming coach at Etowah.
Woodstock is at the other end of the spectrum.
Aside from welcoming back former softball coach Tonya Sebring as its new athletic director following the departure of Krug, the school had just one head-coaching change. Former assistant Darrin Clark took over control of the boys basketball program after Brady Richeson stepped down in June.
Etowah welcomed two new soccer coaches in Buddy Walker (boys) and Emily Dover (girls).
Walker, who stepped down as the boys golf coach in 2002, had served as an assistant soccer coach for several seasons and will only serve as an interim coach until a permanent replacement for the departed Chris Stahler can be named.
Dover, a Sequoyah graduate and two-time Cherokee Tribune Girls Soccer Player of the Year, replaces long-time Lady Eagles coach John Murnan.
At Cherokee, Jennifer Waldrup has taken over the cross country program after serving as an assistant coach for both that sport and for track and field. Also new to their coaching positions are Pam Bonitatibus (volleyball) and Dan Gagnon (girls golf).
The school is still looking to fill a coaching vacancy in boys lacrosse.
Creekview has a new volleyball coach in Morgan Green, while Travis King (baseball) and Rodney Tatum (wrestling) will fill positions at Sequoyah. Also new to the Chiefs’ coach roster is Zack Lawson, who will serve at the school’s first girls varsity lacrosse coach. Athletic director Todd Miller said the school is still working to secure a boys lacrosse coach for the spring.
While the connection between coaching stability and media coverage isn’t obvious, it should be. Just as the coaches develop relationships with players and parents, they form bonds with members of the media. Not only do coaches and reporters learn to trust one another, they learn how to work together.
At the beginning of the school year, one of the first things a good journalist does is reach out to the local athletic directors to learn who the new coaches are. From there, a journalist reaches out to new coaches and conveys expectations.
As an editor, it is my goal to bring recognition to those that deserve it. Coaches play an important role in helping me perform my job by telling me what is going on with their team when I can’t be there to witness it myself. This can be as simple as calling in a game result or broadcasting when an athlete is on pace to break a school record.
As this new school year begins, I congratulate these coaches on their new positions. By working together, we can make this a banner year for the athletes of Cherokee County.
Emily Horos is sports editor of the Cherokee Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.