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South Whidbey wrestling coach taps out after 12 years
Spending several full Saturdays at wrestling tournaments for the past 12 years finally proved too much for Jim Thompson, South Whidbey High School’s head wrestling coach.
He said Friday that he planned to quit soon, a sentiment echoed from the team’s awards banquet in late February. Thompson has neither submitted nor written a letter of resignation.
“I haven’t turned the paperwork in, yet,” he said.
“I’m done. [Assistant coach Paul] Newman says one more year. I say, ‘No, no. One more year begets one more year, begets one more year, begets one more year.’ ”
Falcon athletic director Kelly Kirk, a week after getting word that the football co-head coaches had quit, said he had not heard from Thompson his intent to leave the Falcons. He also joked that the nature of the wrestling season, one that favors weekend tournaments over weekday head-to-head contests, often wears thin on coaches by the end of the year.
“About every wrestling coach I know over the years, it’s such a long, grueling season, that at the end of it they’re like, ‘I can’t do this any more,’ ” Kirk said.
Kirk empathized with the strain the wrestling season puts on coaches, especially given that a Saturday tournament for one of South Whidbey’s teams involves an early wake up and departure because of the ferry travel.
For Thompson, being passionate for his wrestlers and the sport also took its toll. During a dual meet, the wrestlers each have their one match and are done, but the coaches are there on the side, yelling and cheering with them.
“When you’re a coach, you’re wrestling every match,” Thompson said. “It’s so personal. It’s just you and that kid. Win or lose, you feel the ecstasy or their despair. It’s mentally exhausting … At the end of a tournament your neck’s tight, your shoulders are tight.”
He learned that lesson well in 2011 when his son Evan qualified for the state 2A tournament. In the state-qualifier, the match was stopped by the referee because of a hit Evan took to his head.
“It almost got stopped because we thought he might have had a concussion,” Thompson recalled. “The ref asked me if he was OK to go on. Evan looked in my eyes, I looked in his, and he said he was good to go.”
Thompson also said he was frustrated with some of the South Whidbey School District policies and pay for coaches. He noted that he did not receive a per diem, per school policy, for the regional round in Blaine. Usually he covers some of his athletes’ meals on the long trips, Thompson said.
“You coach for the love of the kids,” he said. “But you should still get paid for your time and not go out of pocket, which all coaches do. Give me 12 bucks to have lunch or something.”