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My View: Coaching requires a full commitment

By Al Bruno

Coaching our city’s high school students in sports is more than just a part-time job. Importantly, it is a privilege that requires unwavering dedication and commitment because the kids deserve our professional best.

This calling to coach should summon something special from inside of the coaches’ thinking processes, emotionally and even spiritually, I believe, and manifest into creative energy, imparting specific sport knowledge and playing experience to our student athletes.

Each year the Buffalo School District needs to fill dozens of coaching positions. Most are filled by Buffalo teachers. Many acknowledge that some of the teachers accepting those positions are not giving the full commitment to coaching. They hold short, uninspiring practices, frequently cancel practices and fail to coordinate a well-designed, off-season conditioning and skill program for new and returning players.

A less-than-basic sports program shortchanges and inevitably stunts the potential growth of student athletes. And there are too many less-than-basic sports programs in the city in need of commitment and new coaches.

To make matters worse, an alarming number of these appointed coaches do not have varsity or intercollegiate experience as a player. At present, the district prefers the player experience criterion but does not require it. I strongly believe it should be made a requirement in the recruitment process.

After all, how much specific skill and insight can coaches without playing experience provide to our student athletes? Most would agree – not much at all.

These coaches need role models and mentors to study and emulate. Great commitment to coaching is rare in the city. Thankfully, there are three exemplary coaches who are highly recognizable in the community because of their leadership and winning ways. They lead by example, hard work and commitment, and they are all very hard acts to follow.

At the top of the list is Willie “Hutch” Jones, a teacher and basketball coach at Burgard High School for 18 years. His work in the community is well-acknowledged, serving as a hands-on mentor in sports clinics and in after-school and summer programs. Jones, a former NBA player in the 1980s, has been deservingly nominated to this year’s class of the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

Zaire Dorsey, a teacher and basketball coach, is highly visible and has virtually created a basketball dynasty at McKinley High School in the past decade. He has had his Macks traveling and competing in tournaments around the state. Dorsey’s winning is well-documented, garnering several local titles and a state championship.

In 2015, Tim Delaney, a teacher and football coach at South Park High School, led the Sparks and the team became the city’s first public school to win a state championship in football in Class A. Delaney was named Coach of the Year by The Buffalo News and the New York Athletic Association.

What Delaney has been able to accomplish in his nine years at South Park is nothing short of remarkable and resonating. It certainly does not surprise me or anyone “in the know” that he wielded his winning ways again this year. The Sparks advanced to the Section VI finals, losing a close game at New Era Field Saturday night.

Jones, Dorsey and Delaney are certainly Buffalo’s coaching exemplars. They are all easy to talk to and available to coaching newcomers to consult with about establishing rigor in practice sessions and creating a winning sports program.

Al Bruno is a writer and a special education and English teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools.
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