Flashes on the hunt for hoops, soccer coaches|[06/14/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2007

The coaching ranks at St. Al are getting a little thin these days, at least in some sports.

Jason Hopkins has resigned as St. Al’s boys soccer coach to pursue opportunities in private business. Hopkins has a company that specializes in creating video and photographic court presentations, and he said an increased workload this fall wouldn’t allow him to devote enough time to coaching.

&#8220I’m too busy these days to commit fully. I just needed to try some other opportunities, as far as business opportunities I might have this fall,” said Hopkins, the Flashes’ coach since 2004. &#8220For my job, I’ve had to go to the Gulf Coast for a couple weeks at a time. And I have a real good indication that I’m going to have to be gone in October for most of the month, and that’s right when we’re getting ready to start up (soccer).”

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Hopkins’ departure leaves St. Al with four high-profile coaching vacancies. The school parted ways with girls soccer coach Karen Carroll last month, and also needs to hire coaches for both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

After basketball coach Drew McBrayer left St. Al for a job at New Hope last summer, the school found a stopgap by hiring Penn Majors and Kyt Bonner as paraprofessionals. Neither coach was on staff at the school, and Mississippi High School Activities Association rules don’t allow paraprofessionals to be a head coach in football, basketball or baseball. St. Al got a waiver from the MHSAA that allowed it to hire Majors and Bonner last season.

&#8220For different reasons, which are not hard to figure out, we have a hard time keeping coaches. We’re a small school and we can’t pay as well as bigger schools,” said St. Al athletic director and head football coach Jim Taylor. &#8220We have to hire some paraprofessionals just because we don’t have as many coaches as we’d like. We get young coaches for a few years and older coaches like me.”

Hiring paraprofessionals also has other, hidden costs. An administrator or other full-time coach must travel to all away games with teams coached by the part-timers, which can be draining on some staff members.

As their coaching search intensifies this month, Taylor said finding someone who can both teach in the classroom and coach on the field is vital.

&#8220We’re looking for someone qualified and that we feel will work well with our kids. We’re looking for someone to go on staff, obviously. A teacher-coach,” Taylor said.

Taylor added that several interviews have been conducted for all of the coaching vacancies, but none has been filled yet.