By Joe Potter
The 2009-10 school year at Zephyrhills High was a tumultuous one with 14 changes in the coaching staff, said Bulldog principal Steve Van Gorden.
“That’s unheard of,” Van Gorden told about 25 people attending a coaches summit at the school June 24.
The hiring spree of coaches was the result of one coach being released from his contract, some coaches retiring, others being promoted and one leaving to pursue other career opportunities, said Van Gorden, who just completed his first full year as Zephyrhills High’s principal.
Participation in sports, particularly at the high school level, is declining, Van Gorden said.
The conference was arranged to help make Zephyrhills High staff and leaders of community sports programs, such as Little League, Zephyrhills Police Athletic League (ZPAL), Zephyrhills Pasco Police Athletic League and others aware of the situation. Another purpose was to look for ways to revitalize area sports programs.
Several ideas on how to increase participation resulted from brainstorming between those attending the event.
Some of them included:
– Keeping the costs of participating in sports programs down.
It was noted that approximately 45 percent of Zephyrhills High’s students receive free or reduced price lunches because of their family’s income. Lower income families are also limited in the type of community sports activities in which their children may participate.
“It is really tough for some of those families to afford for their kids to participate in programs,” said Mark LaMonte, ZPAL’s president.
Budget cuts at the Pasco County level recently resulted in the pool at the Hercules Aquatic Center being closed. ZPAL mounted a successful effort to reopen the pool and to have volunteers perform many of the functions that had previously been the responsibility of paid county park’s department employees.
– Providing transportation so more kids can participate.
Some parents work too late to be able to take their children to or pick them up from practices and games. LaMonte said ZPAL recently acquired a bus and is helping to provide transportation for several of the participants in its programs.
– Having a code of conduct that parents, coaches, officials and players need to follow.
This would help to eliminate problems that occur when some parents loudly berate coaches, officials or players during games when they are unhappy about how plays are called, how often their child gets to play and similar situations. Having a code of conduct would help to maintain a higher level of sportsmanship, participants said.
– Doing a better job of getting the word out regarding community-sporting events.
Van Gorden said the high school could provide more information on its Web site. LaMonte said much of ZPAL’s activities are posted on its Web site. Van Gorden suggested area newspapers could help by publishing calendars of upcoming sporting events in the community.
Bruce Cimorelli, athletic director at Zephyrhills High, briefly discussed some issue regarding recruiting to wrap up the summit.
Cimorelli outlined how Jerrell Cogmon had been released as head football coach on Aug. 11, 2009 because an investigation disclosed one of his volunteer assistants reportedly had improper recruiting contact with some students from Wesley Chapel High.
The assistant, Abel Robinson, was teaching at Wesley Chapel High and had coached there the previous year. Robinson insisted he had not attempted to entice any Wildcats students to transfer to Zephyrhills High, but Robinson was also let go by the Bulldogs.
Cogmon insisted he told his coaching staff they were not to have contact with players from other schools and that he was unaware of Robinson’s actions.
Bulldog assistant coaches Greg Mathis and Troy Hochstetler ran the football program for the 2009 season. Reggie Roberts, a Zephyrhills High alumnus, was hired as head football coach Jan. 23.
Van Gorden said his decision to let Cogmon go was one of the hardest he had ever had to make. Handling the situation any differently would not have been the right thing to do, he added Van Gorden.
It was agreed another summit would be prior to the start of the new school year so more discussions could occur and some type of action plan could be put into place to increase participation in community sporting programs.
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