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BHS Coaches Work Despite Low Stipend

Illustration by Ari Libenson

While Berkeley High School’s (BHS) athletic program both appreciates and relies heavily on its coaches,  the salaries of these coaches do not reflect this. Bill Gaebler, coach of both the boys and girls water polo teams, as well as the swim team, says that, “Even being paid for all four water polo programs this season, the combined stipend is below what other schools might pay for one program.”

This lack of pay has resulted in coaches returning to BHS as more of a hobby or volunteer work than anything else. Brad Johnson, coach of track and field as well as cross country, says that he remains coaching here because “Berkeley High School students are some of smartest, most engaging people in this world.”

Most BHS coaches  have separate jobs to compensate for the lack of pay. However, this can be very hard for coaches to balance. “Coaching this past season has grown to take on almost ‘full time’ (8 hours per day) status, and more, if you include weekend tournaments. During the season, time is very unbalanced, whether or not there is another job involved,” Gaebler explained. 

Part of this is because it is negotiated into the contract with the Certificate Teachers Union and the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), and the coaching stipend is not a high priority for the union.

Many coaches return regardless of pay, but their jobs are made much harder when they cannot recruit assistant staff due to insufficient stipends. This can lead to cases like Gaebler’s, who is coaching four teams this fall with no assistant staff.

For now, many of our coaches come back to BHS year after year for other reasons than pay. As Michael Woolridge, coach of the girls basketball team puts it, “To be honest, I love coaching, so it really doesn’t matter about the stipend to me.” This is the attitude many coaches seem to take; enjoyment takes priority over financial compensation.

The community of BHS and the love of and commitment to their sport is what keeps them here. This financial reality ensures that the BHS coaches are doing this for the right reasons, and for the most part, the athletes within our athletic program tend to benefit from this reality.