There have been others who have tried it; a coach in Olean, for instance, comes to mind.
But that didn't last.
No, there are few that can handle the immense responsibilities borne by Jamestown's Steve Sipior, head coach of both the boys and girls outdoor track and field squads over these past six or so years (he also coaches both indoor squads and the cross country team as well, but that's another story). Add in the fact that success for each team is a requirement to keeping the job, and the number of candidates who have the ability to build and maintain a solid program on both sides -and at the same time - shrinks to near zero.
Some coaches wouldn’t be smiling if they had to handle both the boys and girls track teams, but that’s not the case for Jamestown’s Steve Sipior.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Near zero, but not quite.
"I don't know of too many people who could do it our way," Jamestown assistant coach Ron Graham said. "I'm not trying to take anything away from other coaches around the area because they all do a great job for their kids, but at the same time I don't think many could do what he does, coaching boys and girls all year round."
Area colleagues agreed with Graham's assessment.
"I don't think I could do boys and girls," Falconer boys track coach Dave Nelson marvelled. "I think that takes a special person."
Juggling those innumerable responsibilities hasn't been easy over the nearly six years that Sipior has coached both outdoor track and field teams, but still, the success - in the toughest of all leagues, the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1, no less - has come, and this year was no different.
That gargantuan task, coupled with his teams' successes, is what earned Sipior this year's Post-Journal Coach of the Year honors.
"I think he's an excellent choice," Graham said. "It's quite unique what we're doing, but Steve is organized and a great leader."
Those qualities were crucial when Graham suggested Sipior for the job years ago.
"Over the past 30 years, through my involvement with Chautauqua Striders, I had been around the sport at the high school and coached there five or six times," he explained. "At the time, Dave Reinhardt was stepping down as boys coach because of his duties with the Striders, and Steve was coaching the girls track and cross country.
"We wondered who should take over, and I suggested combining the staffs and having Steve, because he's so great to work with, be head coach."
The changes Sipior made upon accepting his new duties were just what the program needed.
"When Steve took over the boys team was down to 15 (participants) or so, and the sport in general was struggling," Graham recalled. "Now, in the short period that he's been head coach, we get something like 25 going out for cross country, 75 for indoor and over 100 for outdoor track. That (last number) is really incredible because in the spring kids have already played every other sport and we have to share them with class trips, prom, spring break, band trips and other stuff that doesn't come up in winter. We try to make it fun, and to have so many says a lot about the system Steve has put in place."
One element of the system is to delegate responsibilities, and Sipior is more than willing to spread the coaching duties amongst his three assistants, Nancy Feenstra (distance), Graham (sprinters and hurdlers) and Darryl Damcott (throwers).
"It's been really great," Graham said, "Steve makes available whatever is necessary in the budget for coaches education, that's a priority for him. He gets out of the way and doesn't micromanage either. He lets us coach our events, and that says a lot because he is a good coach, one who would do well in all areas because he studies incessantly."
Said Sipior, "Ron (for example) knows more about sprinting than me, so I'm going to give him free reign. You have to delegate because there are 17 events (actually, in his case, 34) and you can't coach them all."
While the Red Raiders had some difficulties in dual meets against powerhouse programs such as Lancaster and Clarence this year, Sipior noted that for his squad, the meets that truly count are those that come at the end of the season.
"The ECIC (Division 1) is murder," he said with a laugh, "but we know the difficulties going in and we do as well as we can. Our main season is the (ECIC) meet and the sectionals and this year we probably had more kids than ever qualify."
Among those many successes were Cienna Simon, who reached the state meet in the 100 hurdles, and Taylor Bennett, who went to states in the 400 hurdles. At the Section 6 state qualifier, meanwhile, 30 of Sipior's athletes competed in 22 separate events.
It's those athletes, and other coaches around the area, that make it easy for Sipior to shoulder so heavy a task.
"It just comes down to the kids," he said. "I just love to coach them. It can be difficult and it takes a lot of time and effort and paperwork, but I've got a great group of kids. And the coaches around the Southern Tier are fun to compete against. They all make it a pleasure to come to the track everyday."