Keeping track of head coaching changes in the Southeast/Long Beach area has become an annual ritual. There are 38 Southern Section schools with football programs here. Since 1984, 29 coaching positions have changed hands.
Of the three City Section teams in the area, there has been only one change in the past five seasons.
This year, 13 Southern Section head coaching jobs were open. In the Suburban League, four of the six member schools have new coaches and another is beginning only his second season. St. Anthony High School has had three head coaches in as many years. Eight second-year coaches take the field this fall.
And they are getting younger. A survey by The Times a year ago showed that of nine area changes, only two appointees were older than 35.
Walk-on coaches, burnout, a decade of budget cuts, strains on personal time and the setting of overzealous goals by coaches and administrators are the most often cited complaints from coaches.
More and more younger people are entering the profession and likewise many bail out just a few years later, creating a vacuum of continuity for the athletes in many programs. The stereotypical days of the "old coach" are gone forever.
Here's a random sample from area coaches who commented on the subject of coaching turnover:
What area football coaches are saying about the number of position changes in the last three seasons:
Mike Fitch, second-year coach at Brethren: "What we see here is the importance of walk-on coaches. Some may be moving on, possibly into career changes."
Jon Adler, newly appointed coach at St. Anthony: "I think coaches use places as steppingstones. Most coaches go looking for a challenge."
Ken Davis, entering his 15th season at Schurr: "To be truthfully honest, I've tried to get other jobs, too, but to no avail. Lots of younger coaches aren't aware of what it takes to have a good program, that it takes up a lot of their free time."
Mike Wunderley, eighth-year coach at Valley Christian: "Society places a tremendous amount of pressure on a head coach, not just to win, but to do so many other things. In a given program, district, a coach might say, 'Hey, I don't know if this is worth it anymore.' "
Phillip Vala, Norwalk, an assistant coach for 19 years who is took his first head coaching job this fall: "If all I had to do was coach, that would be great. Younger coaches stay in the business a couple of years and then burn out. Coaching is so demanding of your time."
Dave Brown, first-year coach at Bellflower: "Coaching is a lot of hassle. Once a coach takes a head job, he may become uncomfortable or find he's not qualified for the job."
Ray Mooshigian, La Mirada, beginning his 25th consecutive year as a head coach: "A lot of these guys get tired of dealing with walk-on coaches. Coaching takes a lot of time and effort with little remuneration, but I wouldn't know what to do if I were out of it."
John Hennigan, who left California High to take the head job at Warren this fall: "Some coaches get into my situation where it's easier to move from one district to another without making a major financial sacrifice."
Vince LaRosa, second-year coach at Artesia: "Coaching is no longer just being on the field. I spend half my time coaching and half my time doing other things like publishing the game program, raising funds, counseling kids for grade checks to make sure they stay eligible. There is no more plain old football coach. I can't see myself doing this 10 years down the road."