Archive for November, 2010

Can HS Coaches Openly Criticize the School’s Code of Conduct?

An interesting turn of events from Cheshire HS where a captain of the girls’ soccer team violated the school’s Code of Conduct. The school’s Code explicitly said that if a kid is caught in violation of the underage drinking laws (and according to the arresting police officer, she was), then she had to face being suspended immediately for several weeks. And because the incident happened late in the soccer season, the girl ended up missing the rest of her games.

Parents were, of course, understandably upset by this ruling, and many banded together, saying that the Code of Conduct was too tough in its punishment. Even the coach of the team got caught up in the fervor, and in an email, he said that he was opposed to the Code’s directive as well.

That’s when things got interesting. Even though by all accounts, the coach was a terrific guy and very supportive of the girls, the principal of Cheshire HS and the school board decided to ask for his letter of resignation. While they wouldn’t openly comment on this since it was a personnel matter, it was clear that the school administration didn’t care for the coach taking exception to its Code of Conduct.

Which brings up the next question: do teachers and coaches have a right to voice dissenting opinions on school board policies? Appaently in Cheshire, they do not. Law professor Doug Abrams pointed out on my show that teachers, even those protected by unions and the such, probably would be smart not to publicly air their opinions on what the employers felt strongly about. There’s lot of legal case history which we didn’t have enough time to get into on the show, but clearly this is a real hot button issue.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see where the girls’ soccer coach from Cheshire ends up – perhaps at another HS.

Making a Tough Call: The Curious Case of the Florida State Soccer Coach

If you run a first-class, top-notch women’s soccer team

at a Division I university, isn’t your goal at the beginning

of the year to win the NCAA national championship?

After all, that means your team is the best in the land.

And therefore, all of your coaching decisions should be

dictated by trying to reach that goal.

But does that mean that you should leave 7 of your starters

home on campus when the rest of your team competes

in the Atlantic Coast Conference playoffs?

That was the dilemma that Coach Krikorian from Florida

State had to confront. He consulted with his Athletic Director

at FSU and they both decided this would be a good move.

After all, those seven girls had a variety of bumps and

bruises, and besides, they could catch up on their

schoolwork.

But the ACC viewed all of this much differently. To them,

sending a team without key starters showed a real lack

of respect and integrity for the ACC and the rest of the

teams in the tournament. Florida State was fined $25,000

and also denied $15,000 for travel costs for their actions.

What’s curious about all of this is that numerous college

soccer coaches came to the defense of Florida State, which

lost its opening round match in the ACC to Wake Forest, but

has now advanced to the fourth round of the NCAA tourney.

On my show this past week, lots of callers defended

the FSU coach, but a good number of them also chided

the coach for not bringing the entire team to the ACC

games. That’s what I would have done: bring the entire

squad, and then play your injured starters for 15 minutes

or so. Then, start subbing your reserves.

In that way, nobody can accuse the coach of dividing his

team into two factions, plus everybody plays in the ACC.

As noted, I know it’s about reaching the pinnacle in the

NCAAs, but if you’re going to compete in a conference,

you have to abide by the conference’s rules and

tournaments.

If Only The Coach Had Done the Right Thing….

Of all the items I went through on my show yesterday, the one that got the most response was about the varsity football coach at Southington HS in CT. Now, by all accounts, coach D.J. Hernandez is a young and talented guy. But when he was confronted with a quick decision a couple of weekends ago, unfortunately he gave into temptation and made the wrong choice.

I’m talking specifically about Coach Hernandez coming into possession of a wristband that fell off a Manchester HS player during the game. That wristband contained the various offensive plays that Manchester was running during the contest.Hernandez, according to various accounts, referred to the wristband  and its plays during the course of the game – a game that his team ultimately won 28-14.

Afterwards, when confronted by his actions, Hernandez subsequently apologized for his actions. He was chastised by his school and banned from coaching the next game. He was strongly reminded by his boss that interscholastic sports are NOT about winning at all costs, but rather about setting the right example for high school student-athletes.

Here’s the kicker. Can you just imagine what kind of heroic salute Coach Hernandez would have received if he had simply picked up the wristband, called time-out, and walked it across the field to the Manchester coach? Sure, perhaps some of the Southington HS fans would have jeered him, but everybody else would have stood up and cheered Hernandez for doing the right thing. Plus, let’s be honest – winning a game fair and square — without cheating — always feels a lot better.

As I heard from the majority of calls on WFAN that day, doing the right thing in sports still counts for a lot in our world. That’s a message I welcome everyday.

Final Reflections on A Coach Stopping a Game due to Safety Concerns…

I spoke at some length this past week with both Alex Lalaoui (of Hudson Catholic HS) and Joe Ratto (of Hoboken HS) about the unusual developments between the two teams in a varsity soccer match a few weeks ago. As you might recall, Coach Lalaoui had serious reservations about the field conditions (very wet grass, standing puddles, and unsecured goals) plus, as the game progressed, he felt that the officiating was choppy and uneven. He ultimately decided to take his team off the field with 17 minutes left to go in a 1-1 match.

Coach Lalaoui, who is recognized as being quite knowledgeable about soccer, just felt it would be dangerous to both teams to allow the game to continue. As it developed, when he took his team off the field, under state rules, Hoboken was then awarded a forfeit win.

Since that game, Lalaoui has resigned as the team’s coach, although he made that move with great reservation. And, I should point out, both coaches clearly have real respect for each other. That is, this incident had nothing to do with the relationship between the coaches.

But there has been real concern over the years that it’s very, very difficult to find qualified and certified refs to work soccer games in New Jersey.

All that being said, in retrospect, it’s my sense that if Coach Lalaoui really felt that strongly that the field was unplayable due to safety concerns, he really should have notified the officials and the Hoboken coach BEFORE the game that the game would have to be rescheduled. But once the game began, even if the officiating in his opinion was shoddy, he really didn’t handle this situation well in terms of stopping the game. That move only had the result of making his own kids into victims – victims of a forfeit game. Seeing how no one had been physically injured throughout the first half and most of the second half, it’s hard to see why, suddenly, with 17 mins left in the match, the coach felt that the time had come to intervene.

Again, I want to point out that we had lots of people call or email in with all sorts of support for both coaches, and that of course, there’s no perfect solution here. Safety ALWAYS comes first. I just think it might have been easier if the game had simply be re-scheduled for a later date, and the game had never started in the first place.