Those believing they’re in top shape, won’t know it for sure until they’ve tried a “Bank Street sprint,” a quick burst uphill for about 100 yards, challenging both a person’s stamina and endurance, leaving many gasping for breath in the end.
Members of C.B. Richards’ track team were put to that test late last week as South Pasadena High, like the exercise itself, continues to sprint toward another Rio Hondo League championship. In anticipation to the drill, the Tigers’ coach quickly lined up a group of about 15 athletes, yelled out “go,” before joining them on a run to the top of Bank Street, a steep incline behind the school’s stadium bleachers off Meridian Avenue in the city, to the top of street and beyond, along a winding trail before making a descent back to where it all began. All toll, it took participants on a climb for close to a quarter mile.
It’s a team motto, of sorts, when Richards encourages his squad to put some deposits in “the Bank (as in the hilly street), and when it comes to the league finals, you get to make a withdrawal,” with a top finish or, in the least, an outstanding effort.
It’s those little saying by Richards, his enthusiasm, good-natured personality and gusto for life, that rub off on the young athletes around him, not only in track at the high school level, but the football team, which has experienced its share of success since he took it over two seasons ago.
When word got out in February that he was leaving his coaching duties after 8-3 and 7-4 seasons, including successive first-round trips to the CIF-Southern Section football playoffs, questions started swirling as to why – why would a coach who had the program going in the right direction suddenly want to leave without a job offer from another high school or college?
Richards says he couldn’t devote the time necessary to coaching at the current stipend rate of roughly $5,000 for countless hours, while managing his day job responsibilities as an international relocation consultant who helps highly skilled business professionals, including managers and CEO’s, relocate to Southern California due to changes in their employment. Yet, now publicly addressing the issue, Richards never really wanted to leave, saying he went to the school’s administration asking for upgrades to the football program and its current compensation structure, requests that were not able to be accommodated.
A similar situation occurred with track when he asked for an increase in the number of paid assistant coaches. Richards said he was told resources were scarce and funding would not be available for additional staff members.
Without the additional funding and the ability to add new coaches, Richards with the support of administration, had to make roster-impacting decisions for the safety of the kids. This came in the form of trimming the number of available spots on the team. “I had to drop more kids this year to a level I felt was safe to supervise,” he said.
Initially, based on the number of coaches allotted, the Tigers’ track coach believed they could hold a roster of 80 athletes on his team this year, what he considered a safe number with the three funded coaches on staff. In the end, Richards now has 95 on the roster, a large reduction compared to 165 a year ago.
Seeks Financial Changes
Richards also gave up half his [approximate $4,500] stipend to fund an additional assistant coach position for his track team this year. “The district said it didn’t have the funding at this time. But I didn’t want to let the kids down, so I saw that as the way to do it,” said Richards, who does have a desire to return next season to coach the track team, a program that has gained enormous prominence as one of the best throughout the region. “Hopefully some financial changes can be made to enable this program for continued success.”
In order to keep SPHS coaches with successful track records, he contends changes must be made, saying: “The sports program support system is based on a 1970s blueprint, not one in 2017. The district needs to address it a lot deeper than in the past. For example, I hope they can see that we need more than three stipend coaches in track to do the job for four different teams combined between the girls and boys program. Track is one of the biggest student groups in the school. Academic and extra –curricular programs are always looking for additional financial resources, athletics is no different, but hopefully, the track team and sports can be moved up a bit on the priority list, given the current situation.
“Perhaps, it’s also a good time to evaluate the blueprint for South Pasadena athletics too and ensure it’s evolving to accommodate the growing demands and desires of SPHS and its student athletes,” he continued. “It’s difficult to retain quality, experienced coaches for long in that kind of situation. Coaches have passion, but passion doesn’t always pay the mortgage. The hours I was putting into football are in comparison to more than a full-time job [40+hours a week} and simply not something sustainable with the stipend currently allotted.”
Wants Better Compensation
Like others in the high school coaching profession, Richards said he doesn’t do it for the money, “but if you could be compensated better for the hours put into it, a lot of us would not have to struggle with the idea of remaining in coaching roles. When coaches leave, it reflects on the program and it can be impactful to the kids.”
Kicking, quarterback, and weight and conditioning coaches would have highly strengthened the football program in Richards’ mind. “I don’t feel student fundraisers should be the way to help fund annual coaching positions. Fundraisers should go towards other team needs,” he explained. “The school district can hopefully find or allocate funds for the necessary coaches. It’s difficult and not an easy job to do that, but it’s a matter of priorities. Athletics serves such a great purpose for the community and teaches so many life lessons to our young people that are never found just on the scoreboard.”
Throughout the ordeal of saying goodbye to coaching football at South Pasadena High, Richards said he’s not frustrated. “I’m hopeful these struggles aren’t in vain but that SPUSD can listen and find that a deeper review of the current athletic blueprint is needed,” he noted. “South Pas has some of the best young administrators leading at the district level right now. Given their full attention I am confident a permanent improvement to some of the athletic issues will be found.”
Not an Easy Fix
Like a Bank Street sprint, Richards admits the situation isn’t easy, especially when funding at the district level is tight. “There are many needs to weigh: academically, facilities, staffing etc. it’s not a simple fix as allocating funds never is,” said the coach. “But one that should be looked into for options. Basically, it’s difficult to find quality coaches on a volunteer level. Sometimes you get lucky, but luck has a way of going up and down. If you can fund quality coaches, you can retain them just like teachers. SPHS has amazing teachers and staff they retain for many years. The same can be done to retain the many quality SPHS coaches that are already here. As well, we can begin to attract experienced coaches to come lead future teams at SPHS.”
Fundraising for Athletics
Much like the South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF), a fundraising arm for the school district, Richards believes a possible offshoot to the organization called SPAF – South Pasadena Athletic Fund – could be set up to aid athletics. “The public wants to support South Pasadena sports,” he said. “Quality sports teams, like many activities in the school, help to build a great well rounded environment,” he said. “When SPHS athletics are doing well, you can feel a stronger sense of school pride from all students, even the SP local community is brighter when our sports teams do well. Like the SPEF fundraising drive, maybe there can be a possible South Pasadena athletic fund drive established. I don’t want to come to administration with just problems, but rather bring possible solutions. This might be it. If the funding is not there in the district budget, I believe the people in South Pasadena would step up and help fund an organized effort to support athletics at the school level. I know it’s much easier said than done, but it starts with an idea.”
No One is at Fault
Richards is careful to point out that no one is at fault, explaining the stipend amounts for coaches have been the same for years and a way for them to supplement their income. “The high school is just running what the blueprint is for athletics. It seems to me that perhaps their needs to be a deep review into what are the needs of 2017 versus 1970 is the first step. It’s drastically different. I am hopeful it can be reviewed and perhaps in the very near future a more well supported athletic system put in place. Like all of SPUSD, I’d like to see the continued improvement in athletic teams at SPHS now and long into the future.”
Response from Athletic Director
In response, South Pasadena High Athletic Director Greg Luna said he’s aware the school, district administration, the SPHS Booster Club, and many parents realize coaches are underpaid. “I agree that the ‘stipend’ model was created to help staff members supplement their income by coaching athletic teams,” he said. “The system is not designed as a means to support an individual’s financial needs. Something that we need to remember is that coaching stipends are part of the South Pasadena Teachers’ Association (TASP) collective bargaining agreement and, in my opinion, not something that would be easy to change. I understand coach Richards’ frustrations. However, as a long time coach at SPHS, all of this should not be a surprise to him or anyone else. As the athletic director, I help execute the vision put forth by the SPHS administration, the superintendent, and ultimately the school board. Although stipends may seem to be low, we have been able to retain and hire many new qualified coaches. In the past three years, we have lost only two coaches that have indicated that compensation was their main reason for leaving. Additionally, overall stipends for SPHS coaches have increased in pace with SP teacher salaries.”
C.B. Richards Appreciated
Luna added he appreciates Richards’ service to South Pasadena High over the past two years as fooball coach, recognizing his successful record. “During the same time, fundraising efforts led by parents and students helped support team expenditures in excess of $30,000,” explained Luna. “These funds supported the purchase of new equipment, uniforms, and supplement payments for additional coaching staff. In addition, SPHS and SPUSD supported the football program with over $15,000 for the purchase of safety equipment, balls, and recertification of helmets. This does not include the cost of regular coaching stipends, transportation, fees for referees, and the cost of hosting home games.”
Luna noted that while gate revenue is collected for games, “it does not cover the cost of the program,” he added. “Bottom line is that athletic programs are expensive to operate. I’m certain that if the district could devote/allocate more resources to athletics it would come at a cost somewhere else.”
Editor’s Note: South Pasadena High Principal Janet Anderson and SPUSD Superintendent were asked about C.B. Richards’ concerns through e-mail, but did not respond at press time.