Tuesday night, his basketball team walked onto the court.
But Thomas Jefferson High School coach Grant Laman was not with them.
“It’s very tough, [it's] killing me,” he said.
Laman is also a teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School, and is currently on strike with other members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA). Teachers on strike cannot coach, or participate in other district extra-curricular activities, a spokeswoman for Denver Public Schools confirmed.
Thomas Jefferson’s team played at George Washington High School Tuesday night.
Laman said the choice to strike, and not to coach, was incredibly difficult for him.
“The end of a season is coming up. You’ve got seniors on your team. You want to hopefully have some momentum going into the playoffs," he said. "And leaving the team right now, that’s a tough thing to do. That is really tough. It’s the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in a while.”
Laman said his coaching staff of five includes three teachers in total who are on strike. Without those three, he only has a freshman coach and an unpaid volunteer to lead the team through their last week of the regular season.
In anticipation of a strike, he prepared detailed practice plans for Monday evening. Laman said coaches are making day-to-day decisions about the strike and planning for the team. One of his assistant coaches chose to go to work on Tuesday.
“Just yesterday, he walked the picket line with his coworkers. And today [Tuesday] he had to cross that picket line,” Laman said.
“That tough decision is made for the kids. For the students. For the basketball players," he added. "Hopefully, his coworkers understand -- but he’s making that decision just so he can coach.”
“We had practice yesterday and it was kind of messed up,” said Thomas Jefferson senior Logan Cecil.
He said playing Tuesday night would be strange without his head coach to lead the team.
“It’s weird because usually he’s the one who kind of holds us together, keeps us going."
Coaches aren’t the only ones sidelined during a strike.
At George Washington High School, the student musical “Chicago” opens this week after four months of practice and preparation.
Students involved said they have been running rehearsals this week without their usual theater teachers.
“We all fully support the teachers and the strike,” said senior Huda Aljidaa. “And [the teachers] all fully believe that we can do this by ourselves, and we believe we can do this by ourselves, also. It is just a little bit sad to see they're not there with us every day this week."
If the strike continues, Aljidaa said her theater teachers will only be able to attend the show if they purchase tickets like any other member of the audience.
“[The teachers] taught us enough so that we know the show can go on even without them,” added Precious Joseph, the student director. “But we want to make sure they know that this is for them.”
The show, and the game, must go on. In the absence of their coaches and leaders, students are stepping up.
“It’s motivating us to work even harder to make sure this show is the best it can be,” Aljidaa said. “So if [teachers] pay for a ticket to come see the show, they are beyond proud of us.”
“We just have to do our best to hold the team together,” said Logan Cecil, before his Tuesday night basketball game. “Keep everyone working, even though our coach isn’t there to motivate us. We’ll do our best.”
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