You, the parent of a varsity basketball player, walks into a room. There’s a handful of people with you: other parents from the team, members of the high school’s administration and coaches from the elementary school teams. You’re all here to determine the same thing: who can you trust to be an exemplary leader, mentor and instructor for your child and their team?
This is what happened two years ago, when the high school needed to hire a new coach for the boys varsity basketball team. A committee made up of parents and Brookline Public School staff was created, and they went through a long process of evaluating applicants and finding the right coach.
Finding coaches for popular sports such as boys basketball usually involves an organized committee going through many applicants, but this is not always the case. For lower-profile sports, finding the right coach can be a troublesome, informal process.
According to Athletic Director Pete Rittenburg, the high school uses online postings and job application platforms to attract prospective candidates. Some coaching positions are consistently more popular than others, and in the past, certain offers have been met with dozens of interested applicants. Forming a screening committee is practical when there are many potential coaches to consider.
“There are some programs that have a lot more interest than others, but there are other situations where you can’t get anybody. We try to form committees when we have higher interest, high profile jobs, where you’re getting many candidates,” Rittenburg said.
Rittenburg said that the volunteers serving on these committees would begin by discussing what they look for in a coach. Though there is a still a selective interviewing process, the opinions expressed by the committee play a major role in who gets hired.
“I certainly have people giving me thoughts about what they’d like. You can’t have everybody at the table, but you want good representation. With the players’ parents meeting, it lets everybody have a voice, even though they can’t sit in on the interview process.” Rittenburg said.
However, Rittenburg said that there are some cases where very few or no applicants are interested in an open coaching position. This issue arose last year when the sailing team was struggling to find a coach. According to Rittenburg, this situation forced the school administration to actively network and advertise the position.
“Sailing last year is an example of a struggle that we had. We were really looking all over the place, calling colleges, advertising on sailing websites. We couldn’t find anybody, and when we eventually did, I contacted him,” he said.
Sailing coach Aaron Wishinsky said that he was found by the high school through personal connections and that the process of getting hired involved a two step interview process with Rittenburg as well as regular background checks.
“My process was a little different,” Wishinsky said. “I had a direct connection with Pete Rittenburg, and I knew one of the sailor’s sisters. After two interviews with Pete, I got a call from the town with an offer. Once that happened, I had to get CORI background checks in order to work with anybody younger.”
According to senior Kate Dragonetti, former member of the high school’s sailing team, the school did not do enough to seek out a new coach last year when there were no applicants. Before Wishinsky was found last summer, the team was left without a coach, until eventually an alumnus came to serve as a stand-in.
“It wasn’t very organized. We didn’t have a coach for the first half of the season, and then for the second half we had an alum (Sarah Silvestri ‘15) come back and coach us. We never heard anything about getting a coach,” Dragonetti said.
Dragonetti also said that the school didn’t prioritize helping the sailing team because it’s not seen as an important sport at the high school.
“We weren’t taken very seriously, even though we were pretty successful and went to States,” she said.
In terms of what the athletics department looks for in a new coach, Wishinsky said that an essential trait is being able to balance competitiveness with safety.
“What they’re looking for is knowledge on the sport and how to be able to do it safely,” he said. “A coach needs to make sure that the team is getting competitive and having fun, but also that nobody’s getting hurt.”