After 13 seasons in charge and nearly two decades with the program, Burlington High School boys soccer coach Bob Day stepped down earlier this month.
Day was unable to gain support from school administration to apply for a Vermont Principals’ Association waiver policy for out-of-season coaching, which was the issue at the center of the resignation.
Because he also directs a Burlington-based Black Watch Premier 14-and-under club team, Day was caught in the middle of VPA policy that places limitations on paid high school coaches.
Part of Section 4 of VPA policy on out-of-season coaching states, “A coach from a VPA member school may not coach athletes from his or her own high school or middle school program in the same sport out-of-season.”
Although Day had coached youth players from Burlington in the past, the issue only came up this offseason, he said.
Day had talked to VPA associate director Bob Johnson of a waiver form, but such submissions can only be done by the school. Johnson said he was informed via email that BHS would not pursue a waiver.
“Soccer, like all of the club sports out of season, is pretty controversial and it creates a conflict of interest of everybody involved,” said Jeanne Hulsen, Burlington’s athletic director. “There’s plenty of coaching that can be done that doesn’t have to be with your own kids.”
Hulsen said Day played a major role in Burlington’s success and development.
“Bob made his choice. He had a great run here in BHS and he did a phenomenal job of bringing cross cultures together,” Hulsen said. “He’s done a lot for the kids and he’s been a great service to the Burlington community.”
Day’s teams made the Division I semifinals four times and reached two finals. Day’s 2008 BHS squad, as the No. 8 seed, put together a Cinderella run of sorts, knocking off No. 2 South Burlington in an overtime thriller on Buck Hard Field for the program’s fourth crown.
But winning at the high-school level wasn’t Day’s primary motivation. He enjoys the teaching aspect of coaching.
“My No. 1 passion is coaching and developing and working with kids. The amount of kids I had access to working with was shrinking — 10 weeks out of the year unless I’m coaching the younger kids,” Day said. “It’s been tough. I did not want to give up the high school job, it was fantastic, so many rewarding things about it.”
The policy in part, Johnson said, aims to create a competitive, level playing field and to avoid overuse and overexposure to one sport.
“I know this was a big decision for Bob,” said Johnson, who said all states have similar policies.
Day says the policy is “ambiguous” and hopes the VPA will look at tweaking it, something the association has done a couple times in recent years.
“I’m not placing the burden on the VPA, it’s my problem and it’s a decision I needed to make, ” Day said. “I hope that it creates discussion and debate about the wording of their guidelines.”