Soccer coaches make little money, but they don’t mind

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — To work for free, you’d have to be crazy.

Or really love what you do.

That’s the case for Cathedral soccer coach Rick Simons.

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While Simons now gets paid for his work with the Green Wave soccer teams, it wasn’t always that way.

“I started out as a volunteer,” said Simons, who is also a chef at Monmouth Plantation. “Now I’m on pay, but I would still do it for free because I like to do it. The pay isn’t anything that nice.”

Simons, who has been coaching at Cathedral for three years, said he has been playing soccer since he was 3 years old.

“I know a lot of people call it the ‘other’ sport, but football and baseball are the ‘other’ sports for me,” he said. “I grew up with soccer.”

Natchez High soccer coach Dennis Hogue also grew up playing soccer, and although he gets paid by the high school to coach, he said the compensation is not why he’s coaching — although it helps.

Hogue leaves his job at Sign Graphic every day at 3:30 p.m. to make it to the Bulldogs’ 4 p.m. practices, and he estimates he misses about eight hours of work each week.

“They do pay me (at the school), but it’s just during the season,” Hogue said. “They approached me and said, ‘This is what we can offer.’ It’s not a lot, but I love soccer and coaching kids. It keeps me young.”

Fortunately, soccer is played during the winter months, when Sign Graphic’s business is a bit slower.

Hogue, who has been playing soccer in Natchez for more than 20 years and is in his seventh year coaching at Natchez High, said he might even do it if there was no money involved — although it would be hard, considering all the work he puts in.

As head coach, Hogue has to set up games with other teams and schedule referees to attend, fill out paperwork for equipment, buses, gear and reimbursements and oversee both the boys’ and girls’ teams.

Simons does the same, but there are pros and cons to being a public or private school coach.

“I have a pretty nice budget,” Hogue said. “I don’t have a problem getting equipment. When I need buses or food, I get it. (After games) we eat and I just sign the ticket.”

But there are very few people watching his teams play.

While the private schools like Cathedral have smaller budgets, they make up for it in fan support.

“Parents (of private school children) are a little more well-to-do, and the kids are equipped well,” he said. “They have a great turnout, and the stands are full. For every kid, there’s at least one parent in the stands.”

On the other hand, for the Bulldogs’ last game Jan. 7, Hogue said there may have been a dozen people in the stands.

“I don’t have to work as hard for my equipment, but I don’t get near as much support from the family. I have kids that show up in tennis shoes because they can’t afford a pair of cleats,” he said. “I’ve given more kids than I can count the $20 to go to Walmart and buy cleats because you have to have them to play.

“A lot of my players walk home after practice because they don’t have rides or their parents only have one car.”

Still, both Hogue and Simons said coaching is one of the most rewarding things they’ve done.

The kids, Hogue said, are what make the job worth the hassles.

““The kids are funny,” he said. “They’re comical — and they’re frustrating, but you kind of you kind of put yourself in their place. They’re dealing with grades, school girlfriends. Now I see all that and say, ‘OK, I get that.’ It’s entertaining and it’s fun.”

For Simons, it’s the opportunity to play the sport he loves every day.

“I enjoy coming out here and hanging out with the kids at practice,” he said. “And I like coming out here and playing myself too — that’s probably why I do it. I just like to play the game, no matter where it is or how I’m doing it.”

Both coaches have assistants — the Natchez High girls are coached by Lena Yarbrough and another assistant is split between both teams, and David Gaudé coaches the Cathedral girls while Paul Burns works with both Green Wave teams.

But the work for Hogue and Simons is a lot more than just the two hours of practice per day.

“I think we all probably still, if the school couldn’t afford to pay, would do it just to be involved in the program, for the love of the sport and the kids,” Hogue said. “If you were to put a calculator to it, we’re all underpaid. But emotionally — the camaraderie with the kids — it’s well worth it, even if they cut my pay.”