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Legends of the fall changing in the county

April 11, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

The shelf life of a high school coach varies by the day. One day, coaches think they're going to stick around forever. The next, they (only halfway) mockingly throw up their hands and look for a pen to give someone their resignation.

It's just the way it goes. And it happens pretty often.

This fall, though, Washington County coaches on the boys soccer pitch and volleyball court may need to do some introductions. At least seven - possibly as many as eight - county coaches have handed in their whistle and clipboard for the 2002 season.

On the surface, the number seems big. In reality, the number is huge. This is not just quantity that's leaving, it's quality.

Smithsburg volleyball coach Jim Klein coached three state champions; Boonsboro's Kris McGee played for the Warriors' only state titleist, then returned home to coach them for the last eight of her 11 seasons on the bench.

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Then there's the soccer delegation ... Matt Kinman from Clear Spring, Chris Baumann at St. James, Tim Cryer at St. Maria Goretti. All of them playing against big odds with their schedules and their size. North's Lance Baker put the Hubs on the brink of their first region title in 2000. Jeff Palm left Boonsboro after 16 seasons of coaching, the last eight with the Warriors.

On the record, they did their job to a high professional level. Off the record, they also vented to me on a personal level about the frustrations that coaching brings.

Oh to tell some of the stories ... things even I couldn't believe. And I've seen a lot. Heard even more.

These are the kinds of people that make my job tolerable. For every parent or coach that gets upset with us because we haven't run enough on their kid or their team, you've got people like Matt Kinman, who said "Thanks for getting us in" after calling in every game.

Or a Lance Baker, who also coaches tennis at North High, cracking jokes on the phone.

Or guys like Chris Baumann, who doubles as the St. James athletic director and always makes sure everything is taken care of despite the school's unique boarding status in the county.

Heck, Jim Klein offered me a spot on the floor of his room in Miami for the Orange Bowl if I wanted to go.

But like most good things, these have come to an end. The reasons for leaving are real ...

n A son who no longer loves the sport his parent coaches.

n Three little kids waiting at home.

n Cancer, for the second time.

n Parents that are at the point of unbearability.

Is it frustrating? Absolutely. Are they making the right choice. To a person, without a doubt. As McGee said, "It's time for some new stars to shine."

To replace these stars, well, that will be very tough, indeed.

Dan Spears is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at dans@herald-mail.com or 301-733-5131 ext. 2334.

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