Coaching turnover occurring at a rapid pace in the OV

During the spring of 2018, the immediate area saw coaching icons Dave Bruney (Martins Ferry football), Jay Circosta (Monroe Central football) and Kim Clifford (St. Clairsville boys basketball) retire after careers of upwards of 40 years.

While those were tough to swallow simply because of what those three guys meant to the programs they coached, their longevity made it clear that eventually their time for retirement was coming.

When those occurred, I immediately throught, ‘I am not sure we’ll ever see coaches, especially in those three sports, have careers that last anywhere near that long.’

Then this spring and summer hit and whenever you think you’ve seen it all, the unprecedented happens.

At the conclusion of this past season, seven of the eight schools in Belmont County found themselves in need of a softball coach for the 2020 season.

That’s quite a turnover and an unprecedented change of coaches in one year.

Combine the aforementioned coaching tenure thought along with the changes in softball coaches and it got me thinking about coaching tenures across all sports in the Ohio Valley.

This summer, I asked each area athletics director in The Times Leader to submit to me their head coaches’ tenures, including the 2019-20 school year. All but Beallsville returned information and I did not include St. John Academy since it’s a first-year school and not an official OHSAA member yet.

The numbers are kind of what I expected … staggering. Some of these athletics directors should probably partner with some of the coaching search firms that colleges use because they’re seemingly always on the lookout for a new coach.

So what’s the reasoning? It probably depends on who you talk to.

Over the course of my career, which spans since 1998, at The Times Leader, I’ve developed a lot of my own theories on why there so many coaching changes and guys like Bruney, Circosta, Clifford, Gene Ammirante, Reno Saccoccia, Fred Heatherington and Mark Brown are becoming the exceptions to the rule.

One of the biggest reasons that coaches turn over so often and quickly not only in the area, but throughout Ohio and the nation are parents. The OHSAA recently teamed with the NFHS for a letter to parents/fans about behavior (it’s on Page C4 of today’s edition). Their message was aimed more toward fans’ actions toward officials and driving them away, but driving coaches away should have been mentioned, too.

There’s not a coach in any sport who wants to lose or enjoys losing. Coaches are doing everything they can to put their players in position to win and have as much success as possible. Plus, every sport has a limit to how many kids can play at one time, so not everyone can start.

Unfortunately, often times, parents do not realize that or do not even care about that.

Parents only seem to care about how their child plays or how much he or she plays. And then once the season is winding down, they shift their focus from playing time to who is getting what post-season accolades because you know everyone is en route to a Division I scholarship if they’re named all-Times Leader, all-Valley, all-OVAC or all-state.

Until parents are able to see the big picture and not just the picture involving their kids, coaches will continue to turn over at a high rate.

Other reasons, in my opinion, include:

∫ Family dynamics and time commitment are different. With both the man and woman needing or even wanting to work in a marriage, more time is needed at home. As kids grow up, parents want to watch their kids compete and take part in their respective activities. Both make sense.

∫ The current climate of student-athletes. Quite simply, there aren’t as many kids in schools in the area and there are more options of activities and things for kids to do, so their commitment level isn’t the same to sports. That causes frustration and coaches to question “why do I even do this?”

Here’s a closer look at some of the statistics I found from the information submitted to me:

Despite not having a softball coach, Barnesville’s head coaches have the longest staying power. The Shamrocks head coaches have been place for 12.2 years, while River sits second with a 10.1 average.

Union Local is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Jets have just 2.5 years of experience on average and Bridgeport sits 10th out of 11 with 3.5 year average.

All told, the average coach in the T-L area lasts 7.3 years.


There are three coaches in the area who are in or entering their second tour of duty with their respective program.

Joel Joseph is currently in his second season as the Shadyside cross country coach, while this winter both J.R. Battista and Dave Reasbeck will launch their second tours of duty with Bellaire boys basketball and Martins Ferry girls basketball, respectively.


There are often times when coaches are hard to find, too. The only schools contained in this survey that have no one coaching more than one team are Bellaire, Harrison Central, Martins Ferry and Shadyside.

Taking that a step farther, Monroe Central and River have one coach, who coaches three teams.

Monroe Central’s Troy Baker goes non stop throughout the school year. He’s been the Seminoles volleyball coach for 20 years, the girls basketball coach for 19 and this spring he will begin his third season as the baseball coach.

River’s Mike Flannery, who is the football coach, is also the boys and girls track coach.


There are two coaching jobs that have yet to be filled. Bridgeport is without a track coach and Barnesville remains without a softball coach.

So, when those two are officially hired, the total of coaches involved with or preparing for their first season at their current school climbs to 12.


The date below includes the 2019-20 school year in the total and includes only sports that are recognized by the OHSAA

Top two tenured coaches by sport

Fall Sports

Football — Brett McLean (St. Clairsville), 18; Mike Flannery (River), 17.

Cross Country — Brown (Barnesville), 36; Chris Arno (Bellaire), 23.

Golf — Jerry Robinson (Barnesville), 20; Dave Cybulski (Buckeye Local), 17.

Volleyball — Troy Baker (Monroe Central), 20; Christa Truchan (St. Clairsville), 10.

Boys Soccer — Isaac Clark (Union Local), 4; Derek Gramling (Harrison), 3.

Girls Soccer — Wes Stoner (St. Clairsville), 7; Mindy Madzia (Harrison), 2.

Winter Sports

Boys Basketball — Mark Romick (River), 24; Ed Andes (Shadyside), 23.

Girls Basketball — Troy Baker (Monroe), 19; Rick Isaly (River), 15.

Wrestling — Chuck Baker (River), 16; Jayson Stephen (Barnesville) and Bill Bryant (Harrison), 10.

Swimming — Bobbi Jo Johnson (Barnesville), 20; Nick Levi (Martins Ferry), 11.

Bowling — John Josefczyk (Martins Ferry), 12; Jerad Call (Buckeye Local), 11.

Spring Sports

Baseball — Tom Sliva (St. Clairsville), 19; D.J. Butler (Barnesville), 13.

Softball — Jillian Ongley (Shadyside), 15; Darrin Young (Harrison Central), 3.

Track and Field — Shawn Valloric (Bellaire), 13; Jenna Coyne (Shadyside), 12.

Tennis — J.C. Yevincy (St. Clairsville), 5.


Most tenured coach by school

Barnesville — Mark Brown, Cross Country, 36.

Bellaire — Chris Arno, Cross Country, 23.

Bridgeport — Donnie Cash, Boys Basketball, 15.

Buckeye Local — Dave Cybulski, Golf, 16.

Harrison Central — Todd Dunlap, Golf, 14.

Martins Ferry — Chrissy Lewis, Cross Country, 16.

Monroe Central — Troy Baker, Volleyball, 20.

River — Mark Romick, Boys Basketball, 24.

Shadyside — Ed Andes, Boys Basketball, 23.

St. Clairsville — Tony Ciroli, Cross Country, 20.


School ranking by average tenure

1. Barnesville, 12.2; 2. River, 10.1; 3. Harrison Central, 8.2; Martins Ferry, 8.2; 5. St. Clairsville, 8.1; 6. Bellaire, 8.0; 7. Shadyide, 7.0; Monroe Central, 7.0; 9. Buckeye Local, 6.4; 10. Bridgeport, 3.5; Union Local, 2.5.


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