I did not know Linda Kilpatrick personally and was never coached by her, but I had coaches like her when I played high school sports – Phoebe Kelly, Bruce Villwock and Lil Shelton come to mind.
Coach Kelly was tough, but she was fair – values that I carry today. She also had no qualms about telling me when I screwed up or needed to get my act together. One time she noticed that I was upset about something – something 21 years ago that now seems trivial – but she took me into her office and gave me some great advice. “Kiddo, things don’t always go as planned. You have to grieve, but you have to get used to it and figure out something else.”
Coach Villwock was similar. Tough but fair, but a person who as a teacher, always wanted each of his students or his athletes to find the best in themselves, even if they weren’t the best athlete or the best singer or the best student.
Coach Shelton coached at our rival high school but each summer held a field hockey league at a minimal cost that brought girls together from all over the county as a way to teach the sport (and maybe to scout her school’s rivals), but she was able to identify talent and encourage it.
People like Coach Kelly, Coach Shelton and Coach Kilpatrick in particular opened the doors for many female athletes in Anne Arundel County, not just because of their ability to influence people but also because they were among the first beneficiaries of Title IX – a federal law that helped pave the way not only for sanctioned girls and women’s sports but also for many of the educational opportunities that women have today. Anne Arundel County administrators need to be smart enough and cognizant of the fact that by pushing out older coaches, they are cutting off a valuable lifeline.
From reading my hometown paper, Kilpatrick was shown the door by an administrator who decided the women’s basketball program at Southern needed to go in a different direction. My father sent me a message that “if you knew Kevin Hamlin, you’d understand.” Hamlin, Southern’s principal, is likely looking at this from a cost-analysis perspective. Or the fact that Southern went 2-22 this season. Or maybe he and a few angry parents simply had a beef with Kilpatrick and chose to railroad her, instead. (It’s happened at other schools in other states. Heck, it happened at my high school in 1991. So this is nothing new.)
This is also indicative of the state of our educational system – are some administrators are intent on producing widgets and prescribing to the dreaded “Common Core” instead of encouraging students to be thinkers and doers, and to question things? Yet what buoys me in reading this article in the Capital is the incredible response of the Southern student body, her former players and female coaches – an example of what kind of impact that a teacher or a coach like Kilpatrick made upon them.
In professional sports, coaches are expendable. They are hired to be fired and can easily be replaced within a small window, usually by a costly recruiting firm. High school coaches – many of whom are teachers or administrators themselves – are not.