Mike McLeese and Fletcher Tinsley are moving up. Both men, who learned the nuances of coaching while teaching in elementary schools, have recently been appointed head coaches at Dunbar High School.
McLeese has become girls basketball coach and Tinsley has become girls track coach.
McLeese's boys basketball teams gained numerous playoff berths and won several titles at Slowe Elementary and Lincoln Junior High School over the past 10 years. Last season, McLeese served as an assistant at Dunbar.
The girls basketball coaching job became vacant this spring and McLeese, whose long-range goal is to become a high school head boys coach, jumped at the opportunity to be his own boss.
"It will be a big challenge but in a lot of ways it might be easier," said McLeese, who teaches physical education at Kimball Elementary School in Southeast. "The boys have played the game a lot longer and consequently have developed bad habits. Girls haven't played as much and can still be taught the right way to play the game.
"I'm really looking forward to it. My long-range goal is to put the girls' program on the same pedestal as the Dunbar boys. I want to be a boys coach and I feel this might be the best route to eventually be appointed to a vacancy."
McLeese still plans to assist boys Coach Roy Westmore. Since the Interhigh League has gone to the girls-boys doubleheaders twice a week, McLeese doesn't have to worry about rushing from one end of town to the other.
"That new setup makes it very convenient for me," he said. "For that reason, I don't anticipate any major problems. The players seemed very enthusiastic and willing to work. It should be fun."
Tinsley has been equally as successful in nearly 15 years as an elementary and junior high track and field coach. Tinsley replaces his former physical education teacher and track coach, James O'Neal, who retired after a long and illustrious career in the D.C. school system.
"Mr. O'Neal actually recommended me for the position. Because of my background and my interest in track, he felt I could carry on his program," Tinsley said.
"I've been associated with track for a long time. Putting together my own high school program is a big challenge. I have some ideas I want to implement and it's going to take work. The girls need new uniforms and some track materials. I think track might be at the bottom of the athletic priorities at Dunbar."
Tinsley is used to adversity and hard work. His elementary school (Ludlow-Taylor) and junior high (Stuart) teams, where he was head coach, and the high school team (Ballou), where he was an assistant, all captured major championships on the same afternoon.
Tinsley, who still teaches at Ludlow-Taylor, had mixed feelings leaving Ballou, where he worked closely with head Coach Phil Faxio for the past five years.
"Actually, I was offered the head boys track job at Ballou but I had already accepted the position at Dunbar a few days earlier," he said. "I had made my commitment and although Ballou would have been ideal for me, I had made my decision.
"I felt a little bad, but on the other hand, I'll get a chance to see the final product of what I began. At least four of the Dunbar runners -- Tina Johnson, Tammy Humble, Rene Johnson and Darlene Stackhouse -- began their careers with me. It's nice to get the chance to work with them again. With them and a few of the other athletes here, we have the makings of a good team."