— By GREG WEBB
As is the case with most high school athletic directors, it is most often the rule, rather than the exception, that an integral part of their respective activities starting in the spring and lasting into the summer are consumed with personnel issues — as in, working with the school’s administration to get personnel in the house.
Springtown AD Brad Turner, also the Porcupines’ head football coach, cedes that the search process for new coaches may not be as much fun as coaching up kids for the gridiron, but attacks the hiring process with the same zeal.
“I’ve come to the realization, with 37 or 38 coaches on staff, we’re never going to keep all of them year-in and year-out, so you just learn to appreciate the light-turnover years,” Turner said. “I think the structure of our system is such that our coaches know what they are getting when they are here, and you certainly can’t fault young coaches who have been here a while for moving on to a coordinator or head coaching job.”
Regardless of the effort during the search and interview process, sometimes the melding of individual coaches with the program is not a match made in “athletic heaven,” a prevalent factor in any setting.
“Some coaches may come in and decide, because of personality or philosophical differences, that it’s just not a good fit for them,” Turner said. “And that’s OK, too. I’d rather someone find a place where they are happy, because they are not going to be as effective as a coach or mentor if they are unhappy.”
Getting to the available candidate pool early is always preferable for schools looking to get the best fit for the vacant slots, but that is not always possible when coaches make moves late in the ‘hiring season.’
“Even though we have had a relatively calm year, a definite positive,” Turner said of the replacement process, “the only negative is we had a couple of coaches leave in mid-July.
“You never want to have to deal with that this time of year,. but it happens — in all school districts.”
Looking for coaches in mid-summer is made even more challenging because After July 12, unless the school district agrees to allow an exception, coaches are bound to their contract for the coming school year.
“If I need to fill a spot after the deadline, especially if it’s an assistants position,” Turner said, “I will try to find a [recent college] graduate who is just now getting into the market.
“I would hate for someone to approach one of our coaches after mid-July, so I certainly don’t want to do that to anyone else.”
But Pojo’s athletic director did have to address some departures, perhaps the most prevalent being on Springtown’s diamonds, hiring head coaches for softball and baseball.
“Because it is tough to find veteran head coaches late in the process, especially for girls sports,” he said, “my goal was to find a coach that had played some college ball, and maybe just needed some direction in the head coach aspect of administration. And one who knows the game very well.”
Turner feels he filled the requisite efficiently, bringing head softball coach Amy Balke into the fold. Springtown certainly landed a coach who is accustomed to success.
“Amy played in the softball state championship game while she was at Brenham,” Turner said, “She was also in the state tournament two other times in during high school, and had a nice collegiate career, as well.
“She was a catcher in the program at the University of Texas and just graduated from UT. So, I certainly accomplished the mission I set out to.”
Balke has softball, and mentoring, in her blood, as her dad is a softball coach at Altaire Rice, a district in the Houston area. She comes from a teaching family, and has already had several coaching stints in other venues.
“She’s been giving lessons, coaching in select leagues and has been involved in the UT-sponsored softball camps,” Turner said. “And she has a wealth of contacts to draw upon, including her dad.
“I think she will do well and am very excited about having her here.”
Balke will also head up Springtown’s cross country program.
For Porcupines baseball, Stan Gideon has been hired as head coach, who will also help out with freshman football.
“Stan was the head baseball coach at Northwest, and has also coached at Granbury, Alamo Heights and in Austin Westlake program,” Turner said. “He’s a baseball guy and very good at it — a great addition to our staff. He will help us in football as well, but I’m really looking forward to his influence in our baseball program.
“And I think he’s happy to be here. He has a couple of kids and getting out to a smaller community was appealing for him and his family.”
Josh Ward and Bradley Bryant will be helping Gideon with Pojo baseball.
In his varsity football staff, head coach Turner did lose one assistant, but has covered the vacancy by moving Josh Strickland to coach the quarterbacks, while Stryker Strickland and Duncan McLean will divvy-up by position to tutor the receivers.
Springtown assistant principal Bo Maines will rejoin the football ranks, helping out with sub-varsity D-line coaching while retaining his administrative duties.
Off the field of play, Karl Hornback (former head wrestling coach, is Springtown ISD’s new stadium manager, replacing Bill Reed.
“Karl has been here longer than any other coach I have,” Turner said. “He’s a very intelligent man, much smarter than I am. He will do a great job in that role.”
Hornback’s former assistant David Brokenshire will head the Porcupines wrestling program.
A vital cog in the athletic program’s machinery is the administrative assistant to the AD. Former admin Erika Bragg has moved into the high school’s administrative office and Tina MacDonald, coming over from Reno Elementary, will be Turner’s new assistant.
“I don’t think anyone realizes how much comes through this office,” Turner said. “It’s a challenge to sit at that desk. But I know Tina will do fine, just as Erika did.”
Turner is pleased with the overall chemistry of the athletic staff and is confident the new coaches are a positive add to the mix.