Cheryl Land was looking forward to being a high school basketball coach after retiring from teaching.
Considering that both are full-time jobs in terms of time, Land was relishing the chance to focus solely on the Eastern York girls' basketball program this winter.
It would be her fifth season at the helm of the Golden Knights' varsity team, but the first when she could pay all of her attention to the program and not have to worry about her teaching position at Central York. So, it came as a huge shock, not only for herself but for Eastern athletic director Donald Knaub, when Land informed him last week that she had to resign as the girls' coach because of stipulations for retired teachers and athletic coaches under the Pennsylvania State Education Retirement System and its "retirement code."
"I was not forced out by Eastern," Land said. "I have a good relationship with Eastern. All good there. So, it wasn't anything like that. It wasn't a personal decision. Often times, I know coaches will say it's due to personal reasons. No. And I'm not being forced out by Eastern. Eastern has been 100 percent supportive. It has nothing to do with that."
Unusual circumstance: There's a reason that Land was insistent that her relationship with Eastern is still good and that her decision to resign didn't have anything to do with that relationship.
Her decision to step down has as much to do with past events as it does with what will transpire in her future. Last school year, Land informed the Central York School District that she would retire on Sept. 2, 2016, early into the upcoming school year, after 25 years of teaching.
She would begin collecting her pension from the district and focus solely on her coaching duties with the Golden Knights. However, that's where her situation ultimately took a turn.
Under the PSERS "retirement code," all retired teachers who plan to still coach extracurricular activities may only do so under two conditions — the first being that there are at least 90 days between the retirement as a teacher and the start of the season in which they choose to coach. The second is that the retiring teacher may not have a pre-arranged agreement to coach an athletic team prior to retiring. Land technically would've been in violation of both. If she came back to coach Eastern this winter, she risked having her pension either frozen or stripped entirely.
"They believed in my situation, I would violate those two," Land said. "So, this is all about the 'retirement code' and that there isn't a 90-day break in service and that I have a pre-arranged agreement and because of that, I'd be breaking the code and putting my retirement pension in jeopardy."
One option that Land could've pursued was withdrawing her retirement papers from Central York and continuing to teach language arts this year, which would allow her to coach the team this season. However, she felt like now was a good time to finish teaching and she knows that nobody within Eastern would ask her to hold off on retirement just to continue as coach.
Coaching pedigree: Land has one of the more impressive coaching pedigrees within the York-Adams League girls' basketball scene.
Land served as the assistant coach for the York Catholic girls' team for six years during the program's 10-year run as District 3-AA champions before getting hired by Eastern before the 2012-13 season.
In her four years as Golden Knights head coach, Land saw her biggest success come in her first two seasons, when the Y-A League still had four divisions, rather than the current three. For her first two seasons, Eastern was part of Division III and went 32-19 overall and 23-3 in league play with two Division III titles. However, over the last two years, once the Golden Knights made the move up to Division II in a three-division alignment, their success dwindled. During the last two seasons, Eastern went 16-28 overall and 13-15 in league play. She finished 48-47 overall as the Knights' coach.
Knaub did say in an email that: "We have already begun the process by posting the anticipated opening. Ideally, we would like to fill the position as quickly as possible. However, we will take our time in going through the hiring process to ensure we have the best possible person in place for the 2016-17 season."
Still wants to coach: Even though Land will have to take off for the upcoming basketball season, she still intends to coach in the future.
When and where that is remains the biggest question.
Theoretically, Land could actually be hired in-season by a team after Dec. 2 of this year, but rarely does a coach get fired midseason and then replaced by a newly hired coach, as opposed to just appointing an assistant as the interim coach.
So, look for Land to be back on the sidelines coaching somewhere in 2017-18, when she'll finally have the chance to put all of her attention on the game she loves.
"Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to coach at Eastern and I'm extremely saddened and disappointed," she said. "...I feel like I still have a few years left in me to coach."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org