Working as an athletics counselor the past 15 years, Chris Stankovich has come across a growing number of cases in which coaches have had inappropriate relationships with students or confrontations with athletes and their parents.

Working as an athletics counselor the past 15 years, Chris Stankovich has come across a growing number of cases in which coaches have had inappropriate relationships with students or confrontations with athletes and their parents.

He believes many high school coaches have trouble identifying when students are abusing performance-enhancing substances or are suffering from overtraining. He also believes many coaches aren't properly trained to deal with such issues when they arise.

Last spring, Stankovich was hired to help Upper Arlington High School student-athletes deal with the dismissal of Kevin Chapman, a swimming and diving coach. On July 11, Chapman, a teacher and coach at UA for 28 years, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual battery and unlawful sexual conduct with a 15-year-old female student.

Inspired by that incident and many others, Stankovich has chosen to take a more active approach to dealing with such problems instead of merely waiting to help people after they occur.

Last May, Stankovich met with Ohio state Sen. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) and Ohio state Rep. Larry Flowers (R-Canal Winchester) to discuss mandating psychosocial training for high school coaches.

On Aug. 25, Stankovich and members of Stivers' and Flowers' staff had a meeting with OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross to discuss the possibilities further.

"The OHSAA has been listening to me plead for this for years, and it just got to the point where no one else was doing anything about this, so I looked into it a little bit more," Stankovich said. "I did preliminary research and I came up with a stack of cases in no time. And as we know, where there's smoke there's fire.

"For every case that makes the news, there's certainly many more that don't. Take for example, the girl at Upper Arlington. It took (14) years before she came out. So it was through that experience that got me thinking I should bring this to the attention of lawmakers, and that's when I was introduced to Sen. Stivers. He, obviously, embraced the idea and that's where it started. Larry Flowers also became very interested in wanting to join in, and those have been the two main politicians most interested in doing some reform."

OHSAA assistant commissioner Jerry Snodgrass said his organization already is taking steps toward resolving coaching-training issues. Beginning in 2010, all paid and volunteer high school coaches will be required take the National Federation of State High School Association's Fundamentals of Coaching Course.

Coaches who are teachers have to complete the course by Aug. 1, 2010 and all other coaches must complete it by Jan. 1, 2010.

Snodgrass said the course will teach everything from "organizational skills to working with kids, to working with parents, to communication skills. So it runs the gamut of things. We'll be adding a component based on Ohio rules, bylaws and regulations relative to the OHSAA, too. Many times when we're dealing with appeals, we find appeals are based upon things that maybe coaches have never told them, or a school never told them. I think the Ohio component will go a long way toward reducing that amount of inadequate information given to the kids. We're also adding a component dealing with social issues, i.e. MySpace and Facebook, inappropriate use of the Internet for communication with parents and kids, although some of that is already there within the NFHS program."

Stankovich audited the Fundamentals of Coaching course in July and said it should be beneficial to high school coaches.

"However, the program is completely devoid of the psychosocial issues that I am working with Sen. Stivers on possibly working into a bill," Stankovich said. "There's no training in that current program on inappropriate relationships, boundaries on social networking through Web sites like MySpace and Facebook, abuse of performance-enhancing supplements, youth burnout or warning signs of potentially dangerous situations with parents. So on the one hand, they can be commended for taking a step forward, but I think sometimes the remedies aren't a match for the problems.

"Certainly coaching philosophy and issues around nutrition and first aid are all very important. Nobody's arguing that. But if we've got kids at risk for being raped or potentially dying while they're competing -- because they're abusing supplements they can buy at a nutrition store -- because nobody's talking about it, it's my position that those things are more important than the current program that they're going after."

Shawn Busken, a legislative aide to Stivers, said the state senator is hoping to resolve the issue without having to pass a bill.

"I think we all want to work together towards the same goal, and it's not an us-vs.-them mentality," Busken said. "We just want to work together to do this and maybe it will take some prodding and poking to bring more attention to it, but we feel like we're all trying to accomplish the same thing here. We're all trying to protect the athletes and help the athletes."

But Busken said Stivers hasn't ruled out the possibility of eventually taking legal action, either.

"We hope that (OHSAA) will develop a training program that will address some of those (psychosocial) issues, but no bill's in the works," Busken said. "But sometimes when people drag their feet, or if Senator Stivers felt like it was appropriate, I'm sure he could introduce a bill."

Meanwhile, athletics directors and coaches are concerned about the additional cost of the course, which is $65 for coaches who take it online and $55 for those who take a blended version, taught both online and in a classroom.

High school coaches already pay $167-207 to cover the expenses of mandatory fingerprinting, a Pupil Activity Validation application and CPR and sports medicine courses when they are hired. Some districts help first-year coaches pay part or all of those expenses, using money from tickets sales from their athletics events, but most coaches have to pay these expenses on their own.

According to Snodgrass -- who was the athletics director at Findlay High School for 18 years -- coaches can earn as much as $5,000 to $7,000 per year for coaching the larger revenue-generating sports such as football and basketball. But most coaches earn considerably less than that, and some -- such as Findlay's cheerleading coach -- earn as little as $700 per season.

"Somewhere between 60 to 70 percent of coaches nowadays are not teachers and they are not used to working with kids with the infrastructure of the high school setting, and this might be a great thing for them to have exposure to all of those situations that they might meet up with coaching high school sports," Coffman athletics director Tony Pusateri said. "I understand what they're trying to do and it's probably the way we have to go, but if you're the AD the first thing you ask is who is paying for it and how much is it? We kind of live off our gates here and most athletics departments are run by the skin of their teeth. But I don't know if I can ask a coach who is maybe still in college to go pay for all this stuff, and these extra courses, too."

Ed Rarey, who has coached Gahanna's boys track and field team for 56 seasons, said he isn't looking forward to spending the extra time taking the course. Snodgrass said online course takes five to six hours to complete, while the blended version will consume seven to eight hours of a coach's time.

"I find it somewhat humorous because I don't see myself at my age needing coursework to brush me up on how to coach my students," Rarey said. "Wouldn't common sense tell you how to handle most of these situations? It's a no-brainer that if you go left of the law with a student, you're heading for trouble. I just signed my contract through June of 2009, and I'll get through this next season before I look at the one after that. I'm not saying I won't jump through those hoops to continue coaching. I just won't be happy about it if I have to."

Columbus City Schools student activity director Mike Rotonda has taken the course and said many coaches will be pleasantly surprised by what they learn.

"I was one of the first people to take this course, and once I took it, I found that it's more valuable and relevant than I was expecting," Rotonda said. "It really makes you think about why we're the only country that combines high school sports and academics, and why it's important that we teach ethics as much as we teach athletics. This course is designed to make sure we have good people leading our students for the right reasons."

Lisa Finnegan, who has two daughters who play sports at Watterson, has mixed feelings about the mandatory training for coaches.

"I guess having more information is always better, and sometimes people do things the wrong way because they don't know the rules or consequences," Finnegan said. "In the case of coaches who aren't teachers, I think it's a good thing because they don't have a background working with kids and this could be good training for them. I guess I'm for it, as long as they make it reasonable. A lot of teachers and coaches don't make a lot of money and they spend a lot of extra time working with their students, so I hope schools can find a way to help with that fee because I'm afraid this could scare away some good people from coaching."