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Abuse of Power
by Nancy Kman,posted Feb 5 2013 11:32AM
I live in a rural school district. Susquehanna County is home to probably more livestock than people. Our students come from decent, hardworking families. You know that farmer ad everyone raved about during the Superbowl? That’s the Mountain View School District.
We don’t have a lot of money. Sadly, many of our kids live below the poverty line. Our grade point averages don’t stack up very well across the state. In fact, I believe we are near the bottom.
I’m not going to say we don’t have drugs, but we don’t have a lot of the drug and violence problems you see in more populated areas. We don’t have football, and some sports we barely field a team.
I tell you all of this because it goes to show just how amazing it was for our Mountain View High School Eagles soccer team to win the State Championship. The final two playoff games were against two private schools from wealthy areas. Our boys won. They won because of their skill, and the extraordinary coaching of Roger Thomas.
You may have read the story in the paper last fall, about how Coach Thomas was suspended after a high scoring game against Old Forge. Perhaps when you saw it, your first reaction was that he deserved it. Like every story, you need to get the full picture before you make a decision. I don’t claim to have the answer, or evidence that changes your mind. I still struggle with whether I would have allowed the score to get that high. However, I’ve never coached a team.
As I learned more about the details behind the situation, I’ve been disturbed by a few facts. The soccer team was placed in a division where it was obvious they would be overwhelming their opponents. There were concerns that the players would not get the necessary competition to hone their skills for future playoff games. There were concerns that opposing teams who could not play up to the level might be overly aggressive and injure our players. That has happened in the recent past. Those concerns fell on deaf ears.
During the entire season, the Eagles outscored their opponents 104-4. In the final two games to the State Championship they won each by only 1. I’d say the evidence shows that the team and the school was right to argue for a different division.
Let’s fast forward to the game against Old Forge. As reported by Coach Roger Thomas, the opposing coach stated at the beginning of the game that his team was playing for fun. Coach Thomas had upcoming playoffs to consider and wanted to make sure the team was prepared. Here’s where you and I and others can argue about whether he should have allowed the score to get to 24-1.
What I have a real problem with is how this situation was handled. At the game, the School Board President took it upon himself to walk over to the Principal to tell the coach to stop the scoring. If you don’t know, a school board member has no power outside of the board room. In fact, they are supposed to stay out of issues that could come before them, so they are as unbiased as possible. As relayed in the board meeting last night, the Principal then goes to the coach and tells him there will be repercussions if he doesn’t stop. You may wonder why a school board member would get involved. This one has a player on the team, a player who is not a starter.
The Superintendent later decides to implement a suspension against Coach Thomas. The board is only notified of her decision after the fact. Remember, she answers to the board, a board who’s President was the one who instigated the issue.
We are now hearing that the League may be taking action of its own. A large group of parents and taxpayers attended the School Board meeting Monday night. They believe that the Board should be supporting Coach Roger Thomas and want reassurance that they are, and that they will have him on again as coach for the coming season. The Board President actually said he was not in favor of rehiring the coach. Imagine that, a man who takes your school’s team to the State Championship, tossed aside due to petty mean-spiritedness.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe education is the top priority of a school board. That is why this is so perplexing to me. Roger Thomas is an excellent teacher, and he inspires the kids in his class and on his team. His soccer team is ranked #5 in the nation. Some of his players will get scholarships they sorely need to further their education. At a time when most schools, and school boards, would be bursting with pride, the Mountain View board is doing everything it can to throw the team and the coach under the school bus. It’s a real shame.
Nancy, in your statement about Mt. View, I agree with most of what you said. My wife and I went to the quarter, semi & final games for MV. Everybody should have been proud for little MV winning. I have a problem with you mentioning that Todd Adams son was on the team but not a starter. He was injured for most of the season. I drew the conclusion that you’re implying that Todd wanted his son in the game; he may have been suited up but couldn’t play because of his injury. You said people were drawing conclusions without knowing the facts. You put him in a really bad spot, Facebook has been brutal. I know Todd and his family; I think Todd was trying to do the right thing by calling off the dogs. Todd is one of the best people you will ever meet. If the score was 19-0 I think everything would have blown over. Coach Thomas’s son scoring one of the last goals added insult to injury. What we have now is a mess that didn’t have to be.
I have something to think about, I believe you mentioned that MV was moved to the weakest division. It’s possible that Thomas was sending a message to the Lackawanna League, that they don’t belong at division 3 (I don’t know what was going through his mind). What exactly did the Lackawanna League expect? Coach Thomas wins the State Title, the first for any Lackawanna team & he isn’t voted coach of the year. The boys won the state title & nobody from the team was all-state? A kid from a local school made it, good for him; if he went to MV he might not have even started. Now the Lackawanna League wants to sanction MV.
If ESPN or Sports Illustrated gets wind of what’s going on everybody (MV players, coaches, school board and the Lackawanna League) will be the laughing stock of the country.
Politics as usual
This is not the first time Mountain View was involved in a coaching problem. A few years back a boys varsity basketball coach had the same problem when the coach didnt play the schoolboard presidents son. This schoolboard pres had 5 votes and the coach was fired after the season only because he had a contract. The day after the coach at his expense brought NBA great Daryll Dawkins to speak to players at the sports banq he was fired. Note: This team was expected to win only 5 games that season and won 17 while defeating 2 powerhouses in the district playoff. Schoolboards should be kept out of coaching.
Nancy responds to didn't have to be
My intention was not to imply that his son could play or not- just that he has a vested interest in the team. Whether his son could or not is entirely beside the point. No matter his intentions, good or bad, he had NO authority to interfere. A board President's authority is only in the board room. By demanding something be done at an athletic event- he has stepped totally out of bounds. Nice guy or not- in that position you hold a lot of power and must be careful how you use it. If you or I walked up to that Principal and demanded the same- do you think he would have gone to the coach?
Again- this is the situation as I see it. Thank you for responding.
More Than You Know
Things are no different from when I was in school; schools are plagued with abuse of power, especially with school sports. Currently there is a new trend with youth sports, they are slowly being replaced by travel and academy youth sports organizations. Why? Schools inability to provide and recognize qualified coaches, mostly parent coaches are what are children are stuck with. These parent coaches ruin our children’s future of ever being recognized by college coaches as premier athletes. Why? The child’s physical development is often wrong, have established bad habits, and technically don’t understand the sport they are playing in. The current school board at Mountain View does not care about winning or the level of qualification the coaches may bring to our student athletes because they base their decision off of ignorance and control. The Mt. View school board looks for coaches who they can influence during the sport season when needed to suit their personnel interest as well as their friend’s interest. If you asked, I guarantee that not one school board member can tell you what level of a license a high school soccer coach should have. The schools we faced in the state semi-finals and finals both carry a soccer license of some level. Why is the Mt. View School board so eager to get rid of a state championship caliber soccer coach, because he refuses to be a puppet of theirs and coach in the manner they want him to? As for the league that governs Mt. View they are a joke as well. They support the Mt. View School board to get rid of Roger Thomas as well. Why? Because he holds referees accountable for their incompetence and lack of knowledge and understanding for the sport. The League is also tired of Mt. View winning the district soccer title all the time. Mt. View has won 8 district titles over the last 12 years. The league will do whatever it takes to destroy a sports program in its best interest to see their buddy’s school win. The league literally showed discrimination by demoting the Mt. View Boys soccer program from the top division the year before to the bottom division this year. Why? So their buddy’s teams wouldn’t have to face Mt. View. I have been told the realignment was a two year trial period. Why? By then Colby Thomas and Zeb Cross will be graduated and hope Roger Thomas would step down from coaching for being in the bottom division. Well, if the current path is taken for the Mt. View boy’s soccer program the league will accomplished what it had set out to do. It’s already known Zeb Cross won’t be back next year and most like neither will coach Thomas or Colby Thomas. Leagues Mission Accomplished! Mountain View will not be the district champions for 2013 season or be able to defend its state title.
Real information-something new for some
As one who knows details of the Mt View season's challenges and the issues presented to Coach Thomas by the Lackawanna League's unsporting, ungentlemanly, and, yes, cruel decision(to the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and even possibly the futures of the players on the Mt View Boys Soccer Team) by forcing the 2010 and 2011 District Champion and 2010 and 2011 State Quarter Finalist, whose 2011, 12-2 record in Division 1 (the large school power division where Mt View was the only A school among the best AA and AAA schools) , came within a half game of beating Abington Heights for the Division 1 Title, and put them in a league assignment where their average margin of victory was over 9 goals, I would like to give some more information to go along with Nancy's valuable and informative piece. I hope in this piece to convince anyone with open ears and mind that to comment or reach a decision on those situations and decisions forced on another without a full understanding of the situation is to be sillier than the Monday Morning Quarterbacks who pontificate around the watercooler with the real belief that they regularly have the "answer" that the professional coaches (paid Millions of dollars, ostensibly for their ignorance) just could not come up with.
First if the scoring results of this season had come as a surprise to League officials (the same principals and athletic directors, some of whom later villified and attacked Coach Thomas and his team), and had not been forewarned on numerous occasions by Mt View's principal Andrew Doster, and Athletic Director, Jan Price, who also voted against the whole reallignment, due to this one team's improper placement, then they possibly could have been issued a pass on ignorance. I happen to know that Coach Thomas was "sick" over the suggestion of such an awful placement (aware of the undesirable position that his and the other teams would be placed in) and that he advocated to his superiors (as well as fellow Div. 1 coaches) that these negative predictable mismatches be prevented. Unfortunately, all these warnings went unheeded by League officials, who are reported to have insisted that to provide "special" treatment to place this team where they needed to be would have been too problematic. In other words, since it would be inconvenient, they could create havoc for Mt View's Boys Soccer Team and Coach Thomas, with an evident expectation of impunity. Imagine, these same officials, who could not be bothered and, thus, refused to provide a safe and appropriate playing venue for a program that for years had proved its excellence, these same officials had no problem, when the predicted results of their egregious mistake embarrassed them, attacking the results that were directly attributable to their decision and the excellence of the team they mistreated. Newsflash, in their inverted world of deferred responsiblility, somehow they evidently expected Coach Thomas to do his best by his team, helping them to reach their potential (remember he expected his team to compete against the best in the state - if only they could develop), and also cover for the League's misdeed, under penalty of hating, character assasination, cancelled exhibitions by apparently angry athletic director(s), and threatened District disciplinary hearings, (unfortunately these retaliations were all announced after the regular season concluded, thus ensuring the punishment of the truly put upon [Mt View's team and coach] by the executors of the plan).
As I present the information below, keep in mind what Nancy indicated in her statement, "I still struggle to decide if I would have let the score get that high. However, I've never coached a team." This statement indicates a wise perspective evidently not practiced by most local laymen, nor the coaches that have confidently stated what Coach Thomas should have done on his way through the pitfalls of this league on his way to the State Championship.
Let's be real folks!!! No one and that includes all Lackawanna League Coaches know what Coach Thomas should have done! In the decades of its existence, no other LIAA coach at the A, AA, or AAA level has ever developed or prepared his team to even get to, let alone win, the State Title game. Thus, any assertions of their knowlege of what could or should have been done by Coach Thomas should be viewed with serious skepticism. And as for the less informed layman, let's not even touch on why they confidently profess their "solution" to Mt View's dilemma.
One thing I can tell you is that this year's success was not a fluke, but was a culmination of a 31 year process of Coach Thomas' association with soccer at Mt View.
I will visit a few pertinent milestones that show what I mean:
1)Joining Mt. View's teaching staff in 1982, he volunteered for two years by coaching a Jr High Boys Program.
2)As this squad progressed upward and he with them, they turned around the woeful recent fortunes of Mt View soccer teams, winning their first League Championship in 1986.
3) As assistant coach and head coach he helped extend Mt View's winning ways through 1992, when his Sabbatical Leave began the continued developement of excellence by two of the players present on the 1986 Championship Team, Darin Bain and Joe Kulyshie, with the assistance of friend Jim Belcher.
4)During these years he was pleased to see his former player's coaching efforts go on to build on and exceed earlier team's performances with numerous District and State wins. During some of these years he was privileged to work with players and coaches as an "honorary coach".
5)The late '90's saw him begin his sons' and teams' climb through the recreational ranks, with a memorable championship win in Lackawanna County Stadium in the U-12 Commissioner Cup as a highlight.
6)Throughout the 2000's he coached recreational soccer, travel teams, and returned to Jr High soccer coaching for 2006 - 2008 developing many of the players on the recent and current Mt View teams. This time also saw his family begin their commitment to premier level soccer play.
7)2010 - 2012 saw the earlier work achieve fruition in some of the most consistent and successful soccer achievements in Mt View's already solid history, culminating in this year's State Championship.
Thus, one thing should be evident to anyone now thus informed; Coach Thomas has paid his dues and done much in time, effort, and expense,to develop his coaching skills and the talent he led this year.
Next, lets give some details that most of the naysayers do not know or conveniently have ignored.
1) Had the LIAA conspired to destroy Mt View's program they could not have come up with a much better plan than the schedule they provided to Mt View. In fact, this was alluded to by the announcers on PCN during the title game as they incredulously pondered Mt View's demotion to Division 3.
One, they provided a level of opponent where if Coach Thomas had done what he was accused of doing, running up the score, I personally know that many games during the regular season could have resulted in 30 - 100% more goals. Contrary to the "unbiased" opinions of those scored upon, not only were subs, and subs to the subs given substantial playing time, but never in the history of Mt View Soccer have so many J.V. players seen time in so many Varsity games, even through Districts (obviously as a result of the scores achieved by the Varsity Squad and onfield support by some of the same). The League schedule then inexpicably presented the problem that resulted in the end of year high scores, by LIAA officials scheduling the four weakest teams in the League (three of them coed), consecutively during the last two weeks of regular season play, right as the team Coach Thomas had cultivated to this point, needed to hit their stride, test their mettle, and increase their speed of play in preparation for coming stiffer competition in the District and State Tournament.
However, Coach Thomas insisted that those under his sphere of influence not be harmed by the League's decision to provide so bizzarely unbalanced a schedule.
(To be continued... Tune in this weekend for issues and factors leading to the complaints regarding the last games, and Coach Thomas' use of these games to prepare Mt View for upcoming challenges.)
Remember, Coach Thomas has said that the real miracle this year is not that Mt View won the State Championship, but that they won it coming through the League they were assigned. Any coach knowlegable of high level competition would not choose to prepare to play the strongest competition by consistently playing lower level competition, and would assert that it is impossible to do so against oppposition so much lower in playing level that double digit soccer scores are possible. However, Coach Thomas and Mt. View's team found a way to make this happen. Perhaps then, for this reason and the following one, all opinions regarding "how Coach Thomas should have directed his team regarding scoring and substitution patterns" should be viewed as more than suspect, since evidence proves that none in the LIAA know, or at least have not produced, the level of committment, technical, tactical, physical, and team development needed to win at the State Championship Level. Since this was always Coach Thomas' goal, to fully develop the potential of the players and team placed in his care, perhaps others should have looked not to criticize, but to study, or ask, why he felt it necessary to lead his team through the last two weeks of the season in the way that he did. I know he would have been happy to have provided a coherent explanation based on the same type of sports savy and logic, that lead his team to the State Championship.
So few who comment know the facts, perhaps this lead to the catastrophe?!
To Didn't have to be
I can see that you are a reasonable person seeking to make sense of a really confusing situation. I can assure you it is primarily confusing because of a new trend in our society, not just to second guess the coach, but to publicly flog the coach based on our "understanding of the situation". Not only will this trend be generally proven to have negative results for our society and kids, but it heads in a particularly dangerous directions when the wrong information is presumed to be the truth.
Thus, I think it would be quite revealing and challenging to one of your assertions regarding Todd Adam's involvement, to know that Todd's son, closed out the first half of play on the field, and played later in the second half as well. As you mentioned, since his injury limited his mobility and effectiveness, placing him in a sub to the subs role, this flies in the face of the popular concern regarding Coach Thomas' limited use of other players besides starters. I believe Coach Thomas continued his pattern of playing his Outside backs, Midfield, and Forward starters and varsity level subs for 40 - 60 minutes per game (although I doubt the interuption by the principal caused by Todd's intrusion helped his concentration on his game plan) to attain team development, player match experience and fitness. I believe any coach capable of accomplishing what he did would tell you that to create an organic and top functioning team to win a championship, especially with four consecutive very weak opponents, and with very diverse playing levels on his team, required that the players that would be playing in the District and State Tournament generally got 40 - 60 minutes of playing time, with a particular need for the strongest players like his son to be on the field as much as possible, to lead the other players to the next level in terms of pace and patterns of play.
The results of this could be clearly seen in the State Semi-Final and Final when this development lead to a first year varsity player heading the assist to Colby Thomas who finished it and receiving the assist from Colby, after making the proper anticipatory run off of Colby, resulting in the go ahead goal in each game, respectively. Perhaps if more people were willing to study those able to produce excellence, as Coach Thomas has done, rather than criticize it, especially with incorrect assumptions and assertions, we could lead our young people more often into the type of success they experienced with him this year. I do not point this out with any arrogance, but since our kids deserve opportunities based on solid plans, evidence, and facts. Hope this helps as you try to make sense of this controversy.
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Abuse of Power: She Should Know
Kman's suggestion that Todd Adams spoke to Coach Thomas about running up the score because of some kind of grudge is itself an abuse of power--Kman's power as a member of the media. Such a statement is outrageous and slanderous.
This situation is indeed mind boggling. It's incomprehensible why all people of good will don't perceive the poor sportsmanship demonstrated by Coach Thomas and his players. Running up the score against a mediocre team--for whatever reason--is unseemly. At best, it bespeaks a need not just to win but to humiliate.
The excuse that Coach Thomas was making some sort of statement does not vindicate his actions. He had no right to use the young men on both the MV and the OF squads--without their permission--as pawns in his "protest." As a leading role model in the lives of the players on his squad, Thomas taught by his example that it's okay to act selfishly and brutishly; to throw an enormous tantrum by violating recognized standards of humanity and fair play.
And what of Thomas's not-so-private ambitions for his own sons, Colby and Dylan? Does anyone seriously believe that Thomas would be making such a fuss if his own sons' (and therefore his own) interests weren't at stake? When a high school coach is so intent on securing a better position for his sons that demonstrating the basic decency required of a community leader no longer matters, healthy perspective has been lost.
Success is indeed laudible. Success without honor is not.
The community needed someone to stand up and say what needed to be said. Bravo, Todd Adams--who incidentally probably knew better than to expect kudos for urging right behavior from power abusers like Coach Thomas and Nancy Kman.
Response to She Should Know
Thank you for your response. You obviously missed the whole point. The point is why a School Board President would insert himself into the matter. Who is he to ask a Principal to approach the coach and say anything? It is inappropriate in the position he is in. You can wax on and on about your opinion on the scoring issue, but you are defending what I believe to be an unethical action. The ends don't justify the means. He was out of line and wrong.
that last response was from the writer of this blog post
Nancy Kman- forgot to add that.
Response to Response
Thank you for your reply. For the record, let me say that I was raised in Susquehanna County and attended Mt. View High School. Our family lived within a few miles of the Thomas family (Roger's parents). I am acquainted with the Adams family. These individuals claim to be Christians, which matters because their calling is not simply to keep rules (or to win soccer games)but to do what is righteous, good, honorable, compassionate, holy, kind, and ethical.
Indeed, you made my point at the end of your response: The end doesn't justify the means. Running up the score is poor sportsmanship. It is dishonorable. Period. When high school, college, or even professional athletes demonstrate poor sportsmanship, it's distasteful and unfortunate. When we see it, we hope maturity will bring insight and self control. When a veteran coach shows poor sportsmanship, however, it's appalling. When a veteran coach whose sons are on his team shows poor sportsmanship because his hopes for his sons (e.g., scholarships, more competitive play)are being frustrated, it's disgraceful. When a veteran coach who identifies himself as a Christian does it--and then goes on to defend his actions and through his sons and many, many relatives to foment enormous division and distress, it's obscene. Whatever point you believe I've missed doesn't change this one. Whatever end Roger Thomas hopes to achieve with his antics--however supposedly noble--does not justify poor sportsmanship and this ensuing clamor. You seem to want to neglect this first cause. You are intent on focusing on and condemning Adam's actions while ignoring or justifying what came first: Thomas's lack of sportsmanship. Whether or not Adams should have or had the authority to speak to Thomas about his actions may be debated. I know that Adams is not just a board member but a parent, and not just a parent but a professor of philosophy and ethics and a Christian. It's quite easy for me to understand how a person with these qualities would feel compelled to restrain Thomas, who through his actions was violating what is supposed to be a foundational ethic of Mt. View athletics: good sportsmanship. Thomas obviously was not in control of his passions. He lost sight of the fact that as coach he does not simply represent himself. To that audience and in that situation, he was the leader. As team coach, he represented all of the players on his team, their parents, the school administration and staff, and the entire Mt. View school district. He behaved poorly and then justified his behavior and continues to do so. Adams might have been wrong. But the outcry of foolish high school students notwithstanding, the fact is that Thomas has an obligation to conduct himself with honor and in the best interests of his community. He did not because he is blinded and driven by an inordinate desire for his sons to achieve soccer stardom. Well, here's a suggestion for Coach Thomas: While I still love so many things about Susquehanna County, I no longer live there. One of the reasons is that rural areas necessarily do not enjoy some of the perks of more populated areas. It's a fairly straightforward, evident fact. So, if Thomas would like his sons to play on and against more competitive teams, he is free to do what our family did. MOVE! Thomas is living 500 miles inland and then ranting because the ocean can't be seen from his deck. If he doesn't want to move because of his teaching position and his nice home and whatever other reasons . . . well, life as an adult involves tough choices. But involving an entire community in his petty frustrations is despicable. It's especially sad because the impressions and lessons that he is giving his sons and this generation of Mt. View Eagles is that you must win in pursuing your own selfish goals regardless of the cost to others. Adams might be guilty of acting instinctively and improperly to preserve the virtue of sportsmanlike conduct within the community. Thomas's actions are much less commendable.
All of this ANGER is over a SPORT - SERIOUSLY?
It's too bad more people involved with this district didn't get this upset or as passionate about the failing education system Mt. View is providing to its children. Without the school, there are no school sports. Funnel some of this passion toward the real issue - EDUCATION!