As if replacing legendary football coach Russ Radtke after his departure from New Prairie to Portage wasn't hard enough for athletic director Ben Bachmann, he now has the logistical issues that come with hiring three additional coaches amid the COVID-19 outbreak that has closed schools across the country.
"Not only do we have to hire a football coach," Bachmann said. "But we also have to hire a girls basketball coach. We've got boys and girls soccer starting next year, and those jobs have all been posted."
The only physical differences to New Prairie's coaching searches is the fact all the interviews will now take place over some form of video chatting, whether it be Skype or Zoom. Once each of the respective coaches gets hired, they may have to go through a unique period before meeting their team.
Typically once a coach is brought on board, he or she will call a team meeting, during which they physically get together and introduce one another, go over team goals and player expectations. But depending how long the coronavirus precautions such as social distancing take place, this could hamper some of this early progression a coach usually has with their team. Seeing as building that in-person relationship is so vital for a new coach, the COVID-19 virus could very well end up delaying that crucial step.
"Our timetable of what we originally had planned has been pushed way back because of this," Bachmann said. "Trying to get everybody together and also being respectful to what's going on as far as gatherings of people and what not, obviously it's changing rapidly by the day. We've kind of come to the conclusion that (video interviewing) is going to be the only way we can do this and start to move forward in the process right now."
That being said, Bachmann and New Prairie implemented the video interviews so they're not behind the ball in the hiring process. He believes it's imperative they hire these coaches soon, considering three of the four vacancies are in the fall — football and both soccer teams.
However, there are plenty of logistics that need to happen for this all to work, considering New Prairie wants their hires to be teachers first and coaches second.
"We're trying to hire educators who are also coaches," Bachmann said. "Finding someone to coach a specific sport is the easy part. But trying to get all the puzzle pieces to fit together, that's the hard part. You may have a great coach for a specific sport, but if they don't fit an opening that you have at the school, it makes things difficult."
Bachmann's been on both sides of the table, having been a college baseball coach for 16 years before becoming New Prairie's athletic director. He was also the A.D. at Hanover Central and an assistant at Portage. Bachmann knows what it's like to have coaching be prioritized before anything else. But at a school like New Prairie, where academic success comes first and foremost, it's crucial to hire a coach that can impact students' lives off the field as well.
"At the college level, the job comes along with the coaching position," Bachmann said. "Whereas at the high school level, the job is just as important, if not more important than the coaching position. From an hours perspective, you're probably putting in as much time coaching as you do teaching. But that's not what allows you to provide for yourself and your family. Teaching brings in the money."
As important as it is to talk in-person with candidates, whether it be for coaching or teaching, Bachmann realizes he doesn't have that luxury right now. But with implementing the video interviews, it's clear he and New Prairie aren't going to let recent events hinder their hiring process. The show must go on at some point.