Here's Hoping Phs Retains A Fine Coach

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There have been some promising young coaches who have slipped away from Payson High School and gone on to great success at other schools.

About five years ago, Crain Jagodzinski -- an aspiring basketball coach --pulled up his Payson stakes and left for greener pastures in Fountain Hills.

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Kenny Hayes

At the time he left, Jagodzinski admitted he had head coaching aspirations and didn't know if there were opportunities at PHS.

Jagodzinski went on to lead Fountains Hills to back-to-back state championships and is now considered among the rising stars in the prep coaching profession.

Football assistant coach and math teacher Curt LeBlanc left PHS in 2000 after helping lead the Longhorn football team to the state championship.

LeBlanc aspired to be a head coach and the opportunity was given to him at River Valley High School.

LeBlanc is now a highly successful teacher and coach at Queen Creek.

The pair's departure, and that of some other coaches, is regretful but not unusual.

Finding qualified and certified teachers who are also competent coaches is a daunting task.

For some highly qualified coaches, there are simply no teaching openings in their field of expertise.

For some teachers who are highly qualified, there are no coaching openings.

Couple that with the fact that larger Valley-area school districts are able to offer salaries and perks that PHS and other small town high schools can't, and you'll find an exodus of coaches from rural Arizona.

All those challenges make an athletic director's job among the toughest in public education.

As difficult as it is to find quality teacher-coaches, Payson High School now has on its staff a young man we should all hope the district can retain.

Kenny Hayes, 27, a social studies teacher and assistant football, basketball and track coach, has paid his dues during his three years at PHS.

He began as a freshman basketball coach and now heads the junior varsity. In football, he was the defensive coordinator for the last two seasons.

During the spring, he shares his expertise with the track and field teams.

In the classroom, he's a competent teacher who is well-liked by his students.

I feel I have a special insight into Kenny having coached alongside him two years ago.

He was the Longhorn freshman basketball coach and I was the jayvee coach.

When two coaches spend everyday after school in a small gym with one another, they get to know each other very well. Those long bus rides, like a lengthy jaunt we went on to Chinle, also allow time for a bit of camaraderie.

Watching Kenny, I realized he is as fine a teacher and coach with a bright future.

The only trouble is I know Kenny would someday like to be a head coach.

But, any man or woman worth his or her salt aspires for that. It's an opportunity to do things your own way and a challenge to see what can be accomplished with the talent given you.

A fellow coach once told me, "Head coaching is an itch that has to be scratched."

I know Kenny has the itch, but here's hoping he can be convinced to stay at PHS and a head coaching position is in his future.

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