Monday October 16th 2023

As a teacher, I’ve always heard the old adage that “Those who do, do. Those who don’t, teach.” I’ve never subscribed to that, owing to the fact that I’m a high school teacher and also that even before I became a teacher, I always marvelled at the effect that a great teacher could have on a student in need. Teachers play an important role in our society. However, it’s often been one that’s been infantilized and denigrated in North America. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way, and in many countries, the profession of teaching is a respected one. With a looming school strike in Quebec due to worsening work conditions such as scaled-down pay, larger class sizes and lack of support for student’s with special needs, many people will stop and consider before entering the profession and this will have an effect the sport of wrestling.

More empty classrooms might be in our future as less and less teachers want to teach

To put it simply, many of the coaches of the high school programs are also teachers. Those programs were often started by that teacher and once that teacher leaves or retires, it’s rare that the program will continue on. A good example is my old program at Vincent Massey Collegiate which died after I had been excessed from the school. It was a program that I had built from the ground on up (though to be fair, there had been a wrestling team in the 1980s) and that team had produced National Champions at the Open and U-Sport level as well as medalists at other national and international tournaments. Though some of the athletes from that program continue to train and compete, the program is effectively done and we’ll see no future athletes coming from there ever again.

Team VMC: Gone but never forgotten

With less people going into teaching, proportionately we will see less people wanting to coach. This fact is supported by a statement made by the Education Minister here in Quebec addressing the teacher shortage. The Minister stated that if a qualified teacher can’t be found to fill an open teaching position, then a person with a University degree will be sufficient. Should that not be the case, then they will look to find an adult as the last resort. With the public sector facing a shortage of close to eight thousand-five hundred teachers, we will definitely see a decrease in the quality of education for years to come.

Quebec teachers, who voted overwhelmingly to strike, will march as part of common front for the first time in many years

So how does this affect coaching? Well, as I stated before, most high school programs are run by the teachers themselves. Already to find qualified coaches is hard enough. To find coaches that are also teachers will be even tougher in the years to come. I’ve seen this correlation as the years have gone by as less and less teachers want to coach and who can blame them? Teachers are already overworked and underpaid. Coaching offers little to no extra compensation, all the while taking up an enormous amount of personal time. Some could say that the solution would be to hire external coaches and have the teacher act as support staff, but where would the money come from? Already the government has made it clear that there’s no money for education, so why would sports be any different?

Coaching: lucrative for other things, but not for making a living

In my years of teaching, I’ve seen a steady decline from teachers who want to coach other sports at the high school level. To be fair, these aren’t teachers who have never coached before and are there to collect a paycheque, these are great teachers who are incredibly passionate about what they do. Coaching, like teaching is something done from passion, but to be fair, are the most passionate ones also the best and qualified coaches? While you can be a passionate coach and not a good one, I don’t think that you can not be passionate and be a good coach at the same time. The best coaches embody both of these qualities and in order to find this, you need to be able to select from the best possible pool of candidates. This means attracting the best of the best and in order to attract the best, a certain standard has to be met. This holds true for anything and one of the strongest ways to keep the standards high is by making it worthwhile and respected. In other words, you need to provide incentives for people to do it. Coaching at the school level doesn’t provide this at the moment.

While all our coaches at the NAIG were extremely passionate and highly qualified, this will start to become harder in the years to come

I don’t think I need to state that if your standards are low, the quality diminishes. We’ll be seeing this in the field of education as standards of success will either be lower, or the criteria will change so that the end results don’t look that bad. I think we can say that the same thing will happen in coaching in our schools. In order to see long term success, the building blocks begin at the youth level. We need to put some of our best people there and in the end, we’re just not getting the tools to do this.

So what does this mean going forward? I wrote a blog five years ago about how abolishing school fees would have an impact on school sports as a whole. Looking back on this, it really hasn’t had a huge effect but we’re definitely feeling some change. While I probably assumed the worst at the time when I wrote that blog, this time I don’t think that my fears are un-warranted. I think that the repercussions of not having quality coaching in our schools will be felt as high schools are often the first time our young athletes are exposed to the sport here in Quebec. Like education, if it’s not nurtured and developed, we will be looking at a bleak future for our sport as it relates to education.