Koper among new coaches hired by R-III

By: 
Derrick Forsythe
Correspondent

The non-availability of teaching positions with-in the Warren County R-III School District has created challenges when it comes to filling vacated coaching roles.

Activities Director Kevin Fowler says he is thankful there were quality candidates already on campus, as he has sought to fill multiple positions for the 2021-22 school year.

Among the new leadership is head football coach Jason Koper, who is taking over following the retirement of Steve McDowell, who spent nearly three decades with the program.

“It was good to have someone who was in the program for so may years,” said Fowler. “Coach McDowell had probably seen every situation that could ever come up in a football program. He’s such an integral part of the community that it was such a huge asset. You didn’t have to worry about whether the program was in good hands.”

Koper previously served as an assistant coach for the Warriors during his seven years in the dis-trict. He beat out the final four candidates who were selected for the interview process.

He brings previous head coaching experience, having led the wrestling program at Borgia.

“He stood out from the other applicants,” said Fowler. “He’s been in our program for a while and has head coaching experience, which is different from the other applicants. I thought all were good and had good interviews as well.”

While there was considerable interest in the head coaching role, R-III did not have full-time positions to offer those who might have been coming from outside districts for such opportunities.

“We had quite a few applicants for the job,” said Fowler. “The issue became that it really was not a normal hiring year in that we weren’t opening up jobs, and we didn’t have many jobs to offer to go along with the coaching positions.”

With multiple rounds of budget cuts, R-III has been reducing teaching positions through attrition. This has made the option of bringing in candidates from outside the district all the more difficult.

R-III has hired just one person from outside the district, Andrew Wood, who will serve as assistant football and assistant wrestling coach. Wood is a Hannibal native and former Mizzou wrestler.

Fowler is still looking to fill several positions, including middle school volleyball, junior varsity cheerleading and robotics coaches.

“The problem we’re faced with is we have zero teaching jobs,” said Fowler. “I’m going to have to start looking outside the district and getting people who have at least 60 college hours. It’s really making it challenging with these budget cuts.”

When hiring from within the district, Fowler says he prefers to keep the candidate in the high school in order to establish rapport with and provide accountability for the student-athletes.

“You really don’t want to go outside the building, because relationship building happens within the classroom and hallways throughout the school day,” said Fowler. “It takes away the chance to build those relationships and recruit kids toward building up our programs when you don’t have contact outside of competition and practices.”

For instance, the varsity baseball program currently does not have any coaches working within the high school, which creates challenges in continuity.

“That’s not conducive to recruiting and getting numbers out for the program,” said Fowler.

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