published Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Set supplement for some, salary percent for others

So you're ready to get into coaching and you've got offers from several high schools in the greater Chattanooga area. You know any of the positions will allow you to get experience, but you've got a young family and compensation has to be considered.

You've narrowed it down to a job in Walker County, Ga., or a similar position in Hamilton County. Which is the better financial option?

The answer greatly depends on many factors. From a supplement standpoint you know that the football assistant coach's position in Walker County would pay you a set $5,067. It gets a little more complicated in Hamilton County, which supplements its coaches' pay with a percentage of their teaching salaries.

For a football assistant coach that would mean a stipend of 15 percent. At a starting salary of $32,369 that would equal $4,855.

Since a starting teaching salary in Georgia is $34,442, according to the National Education Association, it seems clear the Walker County job is the way to go.

However, five years from now that Hamilton County position could be more lucrative. You've added a master's degree and now you earn more as a teacher, making your extra coaching compensation more valuable. The Walker County supplement, meanwhile, has remained the same.

"In either place you're going to make more as a teacher with experience and more education," said Greg Ellis, the current Gordon Lee athletic director and a former assistant football coach at Signal Mountain. "When I left Signal Mountain I took a sizable hit to come back to Georgia as far as my supplement went, but then again it pays more to teach in Georgia.

"To me, in the end it's basically a wash."

The percentage system is, according to Hamilton County school board member and longtime coach Joe Galloway, a very strong selling point for his school system. Though school budgets have been cut in the economy's recent downturn, the ability to offer a percentage stipend has attracted quality coaches.

"It's definitely a good thing because as you go up in pay you get an increase in your supplement," Galloway said. "It's a selling point when you are trying to hire someone, especially coaches with experience."

A coach in Hamilton County can max out at 30 percent, which is easy to do if he or she coaches multiple sports. Even at an average salary of $43,000, a Hamilton County coach would pocket an extra $12,900 without being a head coach in any sport.

In Walker County it would take, for example, someone being a head coach in basketball, a football assistant coach and a head track coach to reach that total supplement amount.

Coaching supplements in the Chattanooga area vary from system to system and from job to job. And if most coaches are to be believed, the extra pay ranks near the bottom of reasons they chose the profession.

"If it was all about money, we wouldn't be doing it anyway," said McMinn County football coach Bo Cagle, who previously coached at three schools in Georgia, including East Paulding in the Atlanta area. "I was making three times the amount to coach in Georgia, but the places I coached had a win-at-all-cost mentality. Of course, if you pay someone a lot of money to coach, you expect them to win.

"I'm very happy here at McMinn County. I don't make as much money, but the stress level isn't as high and it doesn't cost as much to live here. I guess you have to weigh all the factors, but there are more important things than money."

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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