The clock is running out on Durango High School’s search for its next girls lacrosse coach.
With the season set to kickoff in less than a month, the Demons do not have a coach, and if the position is not filled soon, the season will be canceled.
Durango School District 9-R Athletic Director Ryan Knorr said the position has been open since mid-October, when he was notified by then-head coach Natalie Mitchell that she would not return in the spring. Mitchell coached the Demons for two seasons starting in 2018 and led the program to a 10-18 record. DHS did not reach the Colorado High School Activities Association’s state playoffs during her tenure.
The program steadily grew under Mitchell, and there were enough players on last year’s roster to have both varsity and junior varsity games.
The job has been posted on 9-R’s website, along with various lacrosse job boards, but as of last week, Knorr had only two applicants. A few more backed out before completing the application process.
“I am holding off for as long as I can and am doing everything to make sure that we don’t have to cancel the season,” Knorr said Monday. “I just got out of a preseason meeting with the girls and told them where we are at. They’re disappointed and so am I. The last thing I want to do is to tell them that we’re not having a season, and there’s still an outside possibility of making this work.”
Players have taken matters into their own hands and have begun reaching out to potential applicants on social media.
“For me, we don’t need a pro, we just want a season,” said DHS junior Madison Roberts. “Even the girls on the team have tried to get people to see that we still don’t have a coach yet. We have shared stuff on Facebook and other social media. We’re making flyers. We’re trying to do anything on our end to have anyone coach us just so we can play. I’ve made a lot of good friends on the team. It’s extremely frustrating because it’s such a big outlet for the girls.”
Knorr said he pushed the cancellation deadline back, which was originally set for Wednesday, to allow more time for last-minute applicants.
There are a host of hoops for applicants to jump through, including an interview; meeting CHSAA requirements, which includes a course on student mental health; and being processed by 9-R’s Human Resources Department.
Knorr said the process could take anywhere from three weeks to a month, but he said if the right applicant comes along, he would try to expedite the process. Once a new coach is hired, the team must practice five times before March 13, the team’s opening game against Roaring Fork.
With all the hurdles, Knorr admitted he did not foresee the season starting on time.
“I’ve notified other athletic departments across the state that it is a possibility, just as a courtesy but not that it’s a definite cancellation of our girls lacrosse games,” Knorr said. “To start later than everyone else and have our first few games canceled, that wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved, especially the other teams, or us either. I am holding out hope for a Hail Mary.”
For parents of players, the unknown is also frustrating. Carol Elliott has a daughter, Allie, who is a junior on the team. She said that her daughter has had a positive experience and would be disappointed if the season were canceled.
“I feel like the girls are losing out on a really good experience,” Elliott said. “It’s something that they enjoy that’s not being pushed onto them. It helps them strive for better grades to stay eligible and travel with the team. They are exposed to different kids that they might not otherwise get the chance to hang out with. There was never any arguing last year between the girls, and (Allie) never had anything bad to say about the experiences in the last few seasons.”
Parents have also considered stepping in and coaching for a season, but Elliott said most parents do not have the experience or in-depth knowledge about the game to coach.
“They even sent me the job description,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to remember that a lot of the parents have jobs and can’t travel to the games. For a lot of us, this is the first time we’re experiencing lacrosse, too, so we’re learning the game as well. ... We just want to watch our daughter do something that she enjoys. Because as teenagers, it’s sometimes hard to find that forum that you get to be a part of and really enjoy it, and the girls have found it. I think if this were a better-known sport in town, this would not be an issue.”
Knorr already reached out to players late last week to see if they would be interested in trying a different sport, such as golf or track and field. Both Allie Elliott and Roberts put their foot down. Lacrosse is their sport, and they are determined to play this spring.
“I wouldn’t want to play a different sport, and I even quit basketball early just so I could focus on lacrosse,” said Allie Elliott. “Lacrosse is the only sport that a lot of us truly enjoy in high school, and it’s sad because that could take away a potential scholarship opportunity. It helps us stay active and keep up our grades. It reduces stress for me, and it allows me to focus on something outside of homework. The only thing we’re asking for is a chance to play this season.”