It’s about this time of year when the rumors really start ramping up.
Heading into the summer, the biggest questions within the Summit Athletic Conference in general and Fort Wayne in particular center not on teams, but individuals.
Where is Athlete A going to end up?
Could Athlete B be on the move?
Which program is the trendy place to transfer to right now?
It’s the lay of the land within Fort Wayne, thanks to an open enrollment policy within Fort Wayne Community Schools as well as a healthy mix of public and private institutions – with both having powerful football programs as options.
The process is an accepted dynamic within the city and county, albeit one that is looked upon as a negative by coaches and schools. It is extremely tough to build continuity and camaraderie when you have incessant personnel changes.
So when news began to leak out on social media on Monday that Jason Doerffler was expected to be named the new head coach at Leo, it put the guy who committed himself to Northrop football for over eight years in the crosshairs.
Some Bruins players took to social media to express their displeasure, while others let their anger known in more private ways. The word “abandon” was thrown around, laced with vitriol by some, feeling that Doerffler was walking away from his squad.
Unfortunately, the world we live in makes it extremely difficult to keep anything quiet. The timing wasn’t perfect, with the talk of Doerffler to Leo spreading on Monday, it caught both sides off guard with Doerffler having not spoken to his team and Leo not having informed all involved that a decision had been made.
The situation put Doerffler in a tough spot, but to insinuate that he abandoned his team? In a day and age where athletes are consistently on the move in this city, sometimes without informing their coach before popping up elsewhere in different team colors?
Make no mistake, Doerffler poured everything he had into the Bruins. While outsiders told him that it was an impossible task to build Northrop into a consistent winner, he gave it his all. Personalities may not have meshed as well as was needed to really maximize the potential in the hallways of the school, but Doerffler refused to give up.
It would have been easy for Doerffler to bail. Twice in the last two years the head coaching position has been open at his alma mater Concordia Lutheran, a place where he broke records and his father Dean ended his coaching career one win short of the all-time mark at the school.
Instead, Doerffler remained steadfast, talking up his 2022 Northrop squad anytime he could, even to Blitz just a few short weeks ago.
But when prime opportunities knock, you have to answer. Leo has a built-in infrastructure that Northrop will never match. The younger groups are annually strong and the feeder system is a TRUE feeder, not one in which you never know who is going to go where between 8th and 9th grade like in FWCS.
The community support within Leo-Cedarville is miles above what is seen at Northrop. Now, some of that community support is quick to judge and question coaching decisions, but the passion and commitment to the Lions is not a question.
And it isn’t just coaching. A day within a high school in Fort Wayne Community Schools is an absolute grind. Teaching, discipline, responsibilities outside of class during the day, they all add up. The onus put on teachers the last several years in FWCS high schools is not fully appreciated. A revolving door of administrators has prevented schools from finding consistency when it comes to expectations – for both adults and students. The only constant has been teachers, who have had to adjust and roll with a successive amount of leaders that come in, put their plan in place, then leave after a few short years, starting the cycle again.
With the opportunity at Leo, Doerffler saw stability that can be incredibly elusive in today’s FWCS – both during the school day and on the football field.
If making a decision that you feel is best for you, your career and your family is abandonment, then we are all guilty of it at some time or another.
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