Wanted: Quality coaches

Though it wasn't front-page news, the high school sports community in the Twin Ports lost a key figure last week when Duluth East softball coach Stan Karich resigned.

Though it wasn't front-page news, the high school sports community in the Twin Ports lost a key figure last week when Duluth East softball coach Stan Karich resigned.

Few coaches have the tireless work ethic and drive that Karich exhibited in his 10 seasons with the Greyhounds. Karich's contributions weren't limited to wins and losses -- though his 129-87 record was darn good -- but it's his passion for the sport that will be difficult to replace.

It's a problem occurring throughout the Northland. Finding coaches committed to spending the requisite time needed these days -- both in and out of season -- is a hard sell. More and more head coaches are hired right out of college and often spend only a couple of years with a program before moving elsewhere -- whether it's due to their occupation, time commitments or parental interference.

The relatively paltry salary coaches collect isn't exactly a big incentive, either.

"Most coaches are doing it for the love of the game," Karich said. "They enjoy the sport they are coaching and they enjoy being with the kids."


That described Karich, who often could be found hanging out at softball games at Wheeler Field even when his team wasn't involved.

That's still where he'll be next spring. Though he won't be coaching the Greyhounds, Karich said he'll stay involved at the youth level by coaching a U-18 summer-league team and continuing to promote the sport citywide. The independent sportswear dealer also is involved on the business end of the creation of the Duluth Heritage Center.

He hopes East eventually builds its own softball field because he spent a lot of his time looking for a place to practice.

"That made it more challenging," he said. "But I don't regret anything. I loved every minute of it."

But this fall, by working on scheduling and formulating a possible spring trip to Florida, Karich realized he was spending too much time dealing with the sport out of season.

"What people don't realize is the time commitment," he said.

That's something that East activities director Shawn Roed said he and Karich have talked about plenty. Where should the line be drawn when handling duties when the season's over?

"We've had a lot of those conversations before, conversations like, 'Why are we killing ourselves?'" said Roed, who coached the East girls soccer team to its second consecutive state tournament this week.


Karich said he'd like to see women apply for the East softball opening, but knows that finding qualified candidates isn't easy.

"The depth of the field that's applying for the job isn't as deep as it used to be," he said.

That seems to be a problem localized in the Northland. Duluth Central's Tom Pearson recalls attending his first AD conference last spring, where he learned from the Blaine AD that his school had between 60 and 70 applicants for its head football coaching position.

"It is difficult to find people who are interested -- whether they are qualified or not -- or whether it's for a head coach or an assistant coach position," Pearson said. "If I post a position, I'm lucky to get two or three applicants. Sometimes you have one applicant for a position, so who do you interview? It makes it a no-brainer."

No matter who gets the East job, Karich will be missed. While the next coach may post as many wins, equaling Karich's commitment level will be tough.

"It's rare to find those people who are program builders," Roed said. "It's sad because you wonder what's going to happen in the future. It's tough to find someone who has that energy, dedication and time."

RICK WEEGMAN covers prep sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or e-mailed at

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