The search for spring sport coaching

Looking into the lack of coaching for the spring season

Senior Rohin Inani was about to close his phone when he saw the name of the caller. Bonacorsi, his phone read. As Athletic Director Nick Bonacorsi was supervising the Varsity Boys Tennis SCVAL finals at that time,

Senior Rohin Inani throws a ball in the air as he prepares to serve. (Krish Dev)

Inani recognized that something urgent must have occurred for Bonacorsi to call him. Though he was in the middle of his chemistry test, Inani knew his responsibility as the stand-in Boys Tennis coach and decided to pick up the call. 

“What ended up happening was that we sent some players over [to the finals] but we needed to bring balls because we were the higher seed [and] we didn’t know that,” Inani said. “[Bonacorsi] called me in the middle of the test asking if I could send some balls [to the tournament]. Luckily Ms. Choi was nice enough and she was understanding of the situation, [so] she let me pick up the call.”

During the 2021-22 season, both the Varsity and JV Boys Tennis teams were missing their coaches despite a constant effort by Bonacorsi to find one. As a result, staff members Ken Gan and Omid Motlagh volunteered to chaperone the JV and Varsity teams, while Inani, a junior at that time, stepped up as a coach due to his prior experience as captain of the team.

However, in the 2023 spring season, the inability to recruit coaches impacted not only the Boys Tennis team but also the Swim and Badminton teams, leaving a large question mark in the air around spring sports. Bonacorsi explains that he struggled to find coaches to fill six vacant spots, noting that one potential factor could be that practice times often overlap with the end of a typical 9 to 5 job, making it difficult for people to be available at those times. Furthermore, Bonacorsi says COVID has had an “impact on these small, part-time roles,” like coaching high school sports, resulting in a further decrease in applicants for coaching positions.

“Ever since COVID, it’s been even harder to find available coaches who are experts within that sport, who have the time and ability to dedicate [themselves] towards coaching at a high-school level,” Bonacorsi said. 

Bonacorsi adds that rising inflation and living costs in Cupertino is also a contributing factor, as the low coaching stipends “[are often] barely a month’s rent for a lot of people.” This factor is also a reason why many MVHS teachers cannot help out with the athletic program. 

According to Bonacorsi, due to “high cost of living reasons and everything layered on top of it,” many teachers live far away from MVHS, meaning that they have to commute to and from school. As sports tend to end at 6 or 7 p.m. and teachers would have to commute back home, Bonacorsi explains that it is simply not a realistic routine for everyone. Furthermore, with a shrinkage in staff size due to the decreasing student population, Bonacorsi warns that staff who are currently volunteering to coach sports could be impacted in the future.

Luckily, Bonacorsi expressed how he used his network to eventually find coaching, reaching out to previous coaching staff to come back on as coaches. As of Feb. 9, he has filled five of the six positions with only the frosh-soph Boys Tennis coaching position still vacant. He also recognized the usefulness of the student players when it comes to finding coaching, as they have networks for him to tap into as well. 

“It was actually some of the players on the team that was able to find Jason Chen, [the Badminton coach], who [was] a coach to Fremont last year,” Bonacorsi said. “They had talked to him and kind of paved the way for him to come coach with us.”

Junior and Badminton player Daphne Huang, although initially uncertain as to whether or not the Badminton team would “even have a season,” is relieved and “pretty happy that the season is gonna happen.” However, Huang explains that the Badminton season will still be impacted by a delayed schedule because of scheduling conflicts Chen has.

Ultimately, Bonacorsi recognizes that this problem of coaching will be a recurring issue for many years to come, as he sees MVHS having “temporary, short-term coaches, which means constant turnover and constantly having to refill and backfill the position.” Still, he hopes to bring on current MVHS staff to coach, as they are a valuable, more permanent resource.

“It’d be nice if we could find a way to get on-campus staff coaching again, whether that’s a monetary incentive or some other kind of creative way to get people involved,” Bonacorsi said. “Barring that, I think for a lot of people it comes down to money and the financial situation, [because] we’re all living in this area.”