High school struggling to retain coaches

The shortage is having an impact on student athletes’ commitment.

A prior year's MVRHS school girls lacrosse team. —Stacey Rupolo

As spring sports registration opens, an ongoing coaching shortage is having an impact on student-athletes.

School officials say the shortage is based on having a small pool to draw from for coaches, as well as the time constraints aided by traveling off-Island for competition.

The shortage has had a particularly acute effect on the MVRHS girl’s lacrosse team. While the school was able to fill its head coach position just ahead of the season, the months of uncertainty have had an impact.

Senior Elena Giordano decided not to play lacrosse this season after being a member of the team since her freshman year.

“It’s hard to build team chemistry when every season we have a new coach walking in,” Elena said. “It takes a while to get to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses on the team, and it takes more than a season to do that.”

Elena isn’t the only player frustrated. “We [the team] weren’t thinking we were going to even have a season until a couple of weeks ago,” said senior Clara Mikos, who has been on the lacrosse team every year since her freshman year.

“This will be my third new coach in only four years,” she said. “I have experienced firsthand how few coaches there are on-Island. The inconsistency is probably the hardest part.”

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School athletics director Mark McCarthy says the school — across all sports — had to hire new coaches nearly every season, saying that the added time commitment for Island coaches is a hindrance.

“Although I’m trying to increase our coaching salaries, the time you put in doesn’t equal the money you’re paid,” McCarthy said. “Coaches have to have the ability to have a flexible work and family schedule.
“Issues surrounding family responsibilities are a huge factor when deciding whether or not you’ll apply for a coaching position.”

McCarthy also cited the limited number of qualified coaches on-Island as a contributing factor to the shortage.

“The pool of people available to coach is finite due to our population and geographic limitations,” McCarthy said. “Some sports have deeper roots here, like football and basketball, whereas young sports like lacrosse are difficult because the number of available alumni is less.”

This year, girls basketball will lose their varsity coach of six years, Melissa Braillard. She also teaches math at MVRHS, and is stepping down to spend more time with her family as her children’s own sports schedules begin to take up more time.

“It’s a big commitment to be a coach,” she said. “As a mom, I don’t get to see my kids that often, so it’s really difficult to manage that time.”

Braillard cites traveling as an added challenge of coaching on-Island. “It takes multiple hours to travel. When you are coaching off-Island, you go to a game in the town next door, and you get home and are able to have dinner with your family and put your kids to bed,” she said. “That’s not the case here.”

The girl’s lacrosse assistant coach William Brown, who teaches history at MVRHS and has been coaching for three seasons, is also stepping down this year due to family commitments. Brown believes that challenges of coach recruitment and retention stem from a variety of sport-specific factors, particularly based on the popularity surrounding a sport.

“Our numbers have never been massive,” Brown said. “There’s not that parent booster fan base that you have with football, baseball, or hockey. That tells me there’s still growth that needs to happen with the girls lacrosse program.”

For athletes like Clara, the senior on the lacrosse team, the uncertainty around whether or not the season would move forward has led to players losing interest or opting into other sports and activities.

“The interest hasn’t really been there because our season has been so uncertain. People are looking to play other sports and do other activities,” said Clara. “[The coaching shortage] really reduces the emphasis on the sport and the enthusiasm surrounding it.”

This story is part of a partnership with the High School View and The MV Times.


  1. As an alumni of MVRHS who was a girls lacrosse player and volunteer coach just last year, I can say with complete certainty there is a major piece missing in this article. First, no female coaches were interviewed and the interviewees were too involved in the school system to be honest about the central issue at hand— the leadership of the athletic department at the school. Why was the previous head coach not interviewed? Good journalism would be passionate about sharing their point of view instead of having admin take an unauthentic guess. Any MVRHS former athlete will say the REAL issues at hand have not been addressed in decades and certainly not be in this article. I loved helping coach last year and can tell you it had nothing to do about money and the time spent with MVRHS youth is always time well spent. I also find it odd that nobody contacted me to take the position. MVRHS needs to stop squashing all the grievances and start supporting their coaches and THEN maybe retention would be less of an issue.

    • BRAVO!!!! It is 100% a failure of the administration. They use the all the excuses. Not once have they been pro active in recruiting coaches. Much easier to sit back and Blame housing, pay, small pool of qualified people, etc

      • John, I am so glad you are intimately familiar with the athletic program. You must be for you to make those statements. You must be at the school every day working with the school administration closely to say it is 100% failure of the administration. You must be working with the athletic director on a daily basis to know that he isn’t being pro active in recruiting coaches. Or, which is my bet, you don’t have any relationship with the school system at all and sit back make overarching statements with actually no actual knowledge of anything regarding this issue.

  2. Sadly, when will “we” truly start to look at how the school is run from the top down. It always seems to me that the leadership of this school never lets the buck stop with her. It seems she has created scapegoats or “others” who are to blame for the inadequacies of this high school. The lack of coaches is a microcosm of the very real issues that are pervasive at MVRHS. If we want folks to support a new school, to the tune of millions of dollars, its imperative we heal the trust between community and leadership. As stated above “MVRHS needs to stop squashing all the grievances” and I would suggest support not only coaches but teachers, staff and students, not only those in the leadership inner circle.

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