UAA alumni give back to their high schools through coaching

To coach at the middle and high school level in the Anchorage School District, coaches must be certified and pass the Alaska Coaches Education Program, which consists of four courses through the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Fundamentals of Coaching: first aid, health and safety for coaches, concussion in sports and sudden cardiac arrest.

The Anchorage School District supports various afternoon sporting activities. Between 11 public middle schools and eight high schools participating in numerous sports each season, there is a demand for athletically inclined and enthusiastic individuals who are interested in taking on the task of coaching. Additionally, the 56 public elementary schools are always looking for volunteers to support their afternoon sporting clubs.

During the fall, high schools offer cheer, cross country, football, flag football, swimming and diving, tennis, volleyball, wrestling, rifle and gymnastics. In the winter, women’s and men’s basketball, ice hockey, bowling and cross-country skiing are offered. The spring semester brings the chance for students to engage in baseball, women’s and men’s soccer, softball and track and field.

The Anchorage School District’s Activity Handbook addresses the coaches’ responsibilities, guidelines and expectations and highlights their tremendous influence in the education of student athletes. Coaches need to have a great understanding of the sport they are working in, but also set an example of moral and ethical conduct and especially, sportsmanship.

Individuals, who are interested in coaching a sport and have gone to school in Anchorage, often contact their former schools to get information about possible job openings.

Alaska School Activity Association’s homepage, also lists current job openings, but Joe Alward, former head cross-country coach at West High School recommends contacting the individual institutions.

“If a person wants to coach a sport, they have to call each individual school’s activities clerk to find out if there are any openings,” Alward said.

To coach at the middle and high school level in the Anchorage School District, coaches must be certified and pass the Alaska Coaches Education Program, which consists of four courses through the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Fundamentals of Coaching: first aid, health and safety for coaches, concussion in sports and sudden cardiac arrest.

Jessica Pahkala ran cross-country and track and field at UAA before becoming an assistant coach at Wasilla High School for the distance running events.
Jessica Pahkala ran cross-country and track and field at UAA before becoming an assistant coach at Wasilla High School for the distance running events. Photo credit: GoSeawolves

UAA alumna Jessica Pahkala, justice major, ran cross country and track and field in college and decided to get certified to coach in Alaska after graduating in 2016. Pahkala is now in her second year of coaching the distance events at Wasilla High School.

“I took the job because the head coach was my coach when I was in high school and she needed an assistant,” Pahkala said. “She made a big difference in my life and it seemed like a good way I could give back to her and to the community.”

After graduating college and finishing her career as a collegiate athlete and earning All-American awards in the distance medley relay, Pahkala described coaching as rewarding experience and a way to pass on her passion for running to the next generation.

“The best part about coaching at the high school level is that you get kids of all different backgrounds, experiences and personalities,” Pahkala said. “It is definitely fun to have really fast kids, but it’s just as rewarding to see kids who have never run before make a huge breakthrough. High school kids are still learning about who they are and what they are capable of; they have limitless potential if they are inspired and have the right attitude.”

UAA alumnus Tim Dommek, physical education major, was a thrower at Bartlett High School before continuing his athletic career at UAA where he placed in the top eight at the GNAC Championships. After UAA, Dommek returned to support his former high school coach in the throwing events.

“I took the job because I got to coach alongside my former throws coach and then took over the throws coach position the last two years due to his retirement from teaching and coaching,” Dommek said.

Dommek enjoys teaching the technical finesse of the throwing events and helping his athletes grow as individuals.

“Ultimately, it is to help these kids become well rounded individuals through the discipline of the sport they chose to pursue,” Dommek said.

Tim Dommek of Anchorage competed in the throwing events for UAA, before becoming a coach at Bartlett High School.
Tim Dommek of Anchorage competed in the throwing events for UAA, before becoming a coach at Bartlett High School. Photo credit: GoSeawolves
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Dommek and Pakahla found coaching positions in their former high schools, but asking around the individual schools, offers everyone with a certain level of expertise and passion for the sport to engage in middle and high school coaching.

Practices take place when school is out, so it is generally manageable for a half or full-time college students to work those practice times into their schedules to add something to their resumes, give back the community and stay engaged in a sport they enjoy.

The hiring process depends on the individual school, but a background check and all paperwork must be turned in to the Anchorage School District’s HR department. Generally, high school assistant coaches’ wages range between $2,520 to $3,150 per season, while head coaches can earn up to $4,725. Middle school assistant and head coaches earn between $2,100 to $2,520 per season.

For more information on coaching in the Anchorage School District, visit asdk12.org/activities/ and asaa.org/coaches/