School officials have common thread
MARIETTA – When Washington Elementary Principal Scott Kratche uses a football metaphor to explain something to staff members, he speaks from experience.
“My staff laughs a lot because I am always using sports analogies to help us in understanding how we can work together,” he said.
Kratche, who spent two years as an assistant football coach at Marietta High School and two before that at Cedarcliff High School, is one of more than a dozen area school administrators who coached scholastic sports teams before leading a school building or district.
“A lot of coaches became administrators because you were familiar with the decision-making process and you were used to making those decisions at a fairly rapid pace,” said Frontier High School Principal Jack Mental.
Mental was a head football and softball coach over the course of his educational career and also served as an assistant coach for basketball and wrestling in districts he worked at before coming to this area. He said different types of practice a coach oversees – individual, group and team drills and specialized work – all translate into the classroom.
Belpre Superintendent Tony Dunn agreed there’s crossover between the job of coaching and other careers in education.
“One of the things that coaches do that I’ve done as a teacher, as a counselor and as an administrator is the development of those people who ‘play’ for you,” he said. “Many of the techniques are the same – you model things for people, you give them a chance to do things in front of you. A guided practice we call that.”
Then, Dunn said, you let the player or employee demonstrate those skills on their own, evaluate how they did and offer suggestions for improvement.
Likewise, Washington County Career Center Superintendent Dennis Blatt said the abilities he developed as a football and track coach at Williamstown High School in the late ’70s and ’80s continued to serve him as a principal at Warren High School, then as secondary director at the career center before taking his current job.
“It’s a good leadership experience in that you work with a team of other coaches,” he said. “You want to win games, but you want to teach positive life lessons to young people as you do it.”
Being a football coach particularly helped him get used to dealing with public scrutiny, he said.
“In some ways, (I’ve) had more feedback as a coach than I did as a superintendent and principal,” Blatt said.
During his first decade in education, Wolf Creek Local Superintendent Bob Caldwell was a junior high baseball and basketball coach in the Lorain City school district and then coached those sports and served as athletic director at Vinton County High School.
“You develop pretty good listening skills when you’re a coach, and as athletic director you deal a lot with budget,” he said, noting multitasking and time management are other abilities that can be honed in coaching and translated to other areas.
Caldwell said he believes the most important aspect of being a successful administrator is being a strong classroom teacher. But being a coach helped him develop skills to become a principal and serving as a principal helped him grow into the role of superintendent.
“I think when I was younger it was a natural evolution,” he said.
Barlow-Vincent Elementary Principal Stephanie Starcher said some of the best preparation she had for her job now was serving as the junior high track and varsity cheerleading coach in the Belpre City school district.
“You have a budget; you’re responsible for safety of the athletes,” she said. “That whole public relations piece is huge.”
Coaching for four years also gives her a perspective as a principal on the value of athletics.
“It allows kids to showcase their talents in a different venue,” Starcher said, adding sports can also provide motivation to get good grades to maintain eligibility.
Fort Frye High School Assistant Principal Beth Brown said her time as a junior high volleyball and basketball coach for Morgan Local Schools helps her interact with teachers who are coaching now.
“I think it gives you another perspective to look at when you’re working with teachers who coach, so you can understand their time constraints,” she said.
Putnam Elementary Principal Jona Hall said she keeps some of the same mentality she had as a junior varsity girls basketball coach at Federal Hocking and an eighth-grade volleyball coach at Marietta Middle School in her role as a building administrator.
“I had high expectations for my kids in teamwork,” she said. “I’m a huge believer (that) we together are what makes Putnam great.”
Marietta High School Principal Bill Lee said that as a head baseball coach in the Union Local school district from 1978 to 1987 and as an assistant football and basketball coach he focused on improving the team. As an administrator, he focuses on improving the school.
In both roles, communication, honesty and transparency are important values, Lee said.
“All those things serve you well as a coach and an administrator,” he said.