In an effort to prevent high school coaches being fired without just cause — and often, because issues parents take with their kids’ playing time — a New Jersey state senate bill would secure longer contracts for tenured coaches and change rules regarding firing allowances.
But there are concerns this bill would make it tougher to remove coaches who do abuse their power.
Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, who is a football coach at Hackensack High School (N.J.), and co-sponsor State Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, plan to introduce the measure Monday, according to NJ.com.
The bill would ensure three-year contracts for head coaches who are tenured employees at public high schools and two-year contracts for assistants who meet the same criteria.
It would also say coaches cannot be fired or have their pay cut for “arbitrary or capricious reasons” and “only for just cause,” according to NJ.com.
If fired for poor performance, coaches would be guaranteed a year to correct the mistakes.
The measure also mandates giving proper notice when coaches will not be retained after their contract expires.
Wimberly told NJ.com he created the bill because there has been a recent tide of coaches forced out due to what the outlet paraphrased as “questionable reasons.”
John Fiore, president of the New Jersey Football Coaches Association and head coach of Montclair (N.J.) told NJ.com many coach firings or tarnished reputations have been the result of parents angry about their children’s playing time.
“Most of the time, it’s a playing issue,” he said.
But the controversial firings aren’t just parents upset their kid isn’t playing as much as they think he or she deserves.
Coaches have begun to fear being on the receiving end of bullying claims that — whether the allegations are truthful or not — could end their careers.
In February 2018, NJ.com reported that 13 public school coaches had lost their jobs since 2011 due to being accused of bullying players. It created a fear in some coaches, veterans and younger ones, to punish players or have them run conditioning sprints, the outlet reported.
One coach was sued when he had a baseball player broke an ankle after being instructed to slide during a game.
Stuart Green, the founder and director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, does not support Wimberly’s bill.
He believes it gives unnecessary power to the coaches while removing it from players and parents who may be victims.
“The literal elements of this bill sound innocuous, but the spirit of it is to move power away from vulnerable kids and their families and move that power back in the direction of coaches, schools and school staffs,” Green said to the outlet.
He also warned NJ.com that the impact of coaches bullying players has been “minimized” and “ignored,” particularly when the team has success.
“There can be too much of a focus on winning, so a coach who is bullying could be retained by a school because they win,” Green said. “Winning shouldn’t be the only standard.”