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A Dutchman's dilemma: Why firing Coach Voie for Ritchie is wrong

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For those who may not have known, there's been an effort in recent weeks among a group of parents in the Winlock School District encouraging the School Board to hire former NFL player Dave Richie as their high school football coach.

This didn't exactly come out of the blue, as Richie had spoken with students at the Grade School in December in the lead up to his appearance at a local Madden 2015 tournament held Super Bowl weekend.

According to resident Brandon Patching, who spoke for the group of parents at the Jan. 21 meeting of the School Board, a number of students were very impressed with Richie and even asked why he was not coaching their football team. Patching said, between such interest from students and a desire from Richie to return to Southwest Washington (Richie grew up in the Kelso area), the district would benefit from offering him the head coaching position at the high school, as this would bring in not only the mind and talents of a former member of the Denver Broncos, but would also open funding avenues unique to teams coached by former NFL players.

The board has not yet offered an official response to the proposal, and Superintendent Shannon Criss has said she has no comment on the matter, but did confirm long-time Head Coach Mike Voie has yet to step down from his position, and the only open coaching job for the team at this time is that of part-time assistant coach.

While Winlock's loss record (which stood at 38 straight games until they defeated Chief Leschi High School last November) is not to be ignored in conversations about a change-up in the team's leadership, nor the district's admitted struggle overall in managing their athletics program, the idea of hiring Richie--or any other potential coach--presents what some may call the Dilemma of The Flying Dutchman.

Those who have seen the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie have something of an idea who The Flying Dutchman was: according to Germanic folklore, The Flying Dutchman was a sea captain who cheated on his wife and was cursed to roam the seas forever, but could come ashore once every 100 years to try and break the curse, which could only be broken if a woman would commit to be faithful to him until death.

One such 100 years, he finds a young maiden who has heard legends about the Dutchman's vast treasures, which he has accumulated by roaming the seas eternally, and she does agree to marry him until death, but dumps her fiancé in order to do so. When the Dutchman hears about the maiden's former lover, he is very distressed because, if she would dump her fiancé so quickly to be with someone else, how could she really remain faithful to him?

And that's pretty much what Winlock is facing. If they scrap Voie to gain all the benefits they have heard (somewhat in legend) could be gained from hiring Richie, what assurances would Richie have that the board would not simply scrap him when they found someone better? The School Board could offer whatever assurances of longevity they liked, but no statement would hold water compared to how easily they let their previous coach go.

If Winlock wants a better football program, it can't simply be about finding a new coach. We need families committed to staying in the district, we need a community that shows up for games and fundraisers, we need trust instilled in parents that their students' athletic and scholastic careers are not threatened by petty staffroom politics. We need an attitude that doesn't say, "Throw someone under a bus!" so quickly it makes everyone else say, "I don't want to work there. See how quickly they threw that guy under a bus?"

And to put ethics aside, state law requires an employer to have a concrete reason for firing someone if they don't want to get their butts sued, and I'm not sure a losing streak that can be attributed to many factors other than just coaching would suffice.

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