Coaching their minds

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 3, 2000

You won’t find these coaches on the football sidelines or sweating up a storm in the August practices. They’re too important. They work to keep thesestudent-athletes eligible to play. They’re academic coaches.Rita Perrier is listed in the Destrehan High football programs as part of the coaching staff. Likewise, Margaret Peters is listed at Hahnville High.Perrier is in her sixth year of making sure the football squad stays academically eligible. In St. Charles Parish, the minimum requirement is tomaintain a 1.5 grade point average.Perrier’s method, as one would expect the head of the DHS mathematics department would develop, is quite precise and methodical. Progress onevery football player is followed on a weekly basis.

“A lot of time, it’s just guidance,” Perrier said.

Reports are gathered from each athlete’s teachers in every class, checking off whether the athlete is maintaining classwork, homework and conduct.

Any academic problem is referred to her.

If there is a math problem, she works with the student. If the problems arein other subjects, teachers in those fields work under her supervision to help bring the student back to speed.

The tutorial program is conducted during football season after practices. Inthe off-season, the tutorials are held after the regular school day.

In a program, first introduced by then-football coach and now-DHS principal Chipper Simon, any conduct problem is referred directly to the coaches, who assign “ops” for the athlete to complete – physical exercises which aren’t meant as punish work, rather as an “opportunity” to address the concern.

The program appears to be working, since several students often make the academic all-state football list.

Perrier is in her 14th year at Destrehan High, prior to which she taught for 10 years with St. Charles Borromeo’s high school program in Destrehan andLaPlace.

And she always makes every game – she’s the press box spotter for the play-by-play announcer.

“They have the utmost respect for me,” Perrier said of her students. “I’venever had any disciplinary problem.”Margaret Peters at Hahnville High enjoys similar respect from her students.

In fact, her athletes commonly refer to her as “Me-maw.”Her method is different, as she comes from a special education background.

She roams the school, classroom to classroom, following the football players around and sitting in classes with them, while making herself available to any other struggling student. “I learn what they learn, so I can help them,” shesaid.

In her eighth year as academic coach and 11th year at Hahnville, Peters formerly taught at Archbishop Chappel.

“I really enjoy doing what I do because I get to learn in so many different areas,” Peters said.

Two or three times each week she checks up with ongoing progress of every player, “and I become very close to them.”In fact, each teacher has a wall in her classroom devoted to photographs of their students, past and present.

“The boys couldn’t be nicer,” Peters said, “and I never, ever had a problem with disrespectfulness. They’re very devoted to me.”Likewise, she never misses a home game and maintains a strong relationship with the football coaches. “I can really appreciate what they do,” she said.

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