The longtime cross country and track & field coach at Simsbury (Conn.) High chose to resign rather than accept a player on the team he was convinced would not provide a positive contribution.
As reported by the Hartford Courant, Simsbury coach Mike Cohen, who led the program from 1988 to the start of this season, resigned rather that accept that he had to field a player whom he was convinced would not contribute positively to the team. Here’s how Cohen described the situation to the Courant:
“I told the athletic director I really didn’t want him on the team given his history,” Cohen told the Courant. “The AD suggested I ask the kid what’s changed. So I approached it with him. Basically the answer I got was ‘nothing has changed, I’ve paid my participation fee [$175 at Simsbury], I can run.’
“There was nothing about, ‘I want to help the team, I want to become a better runner.’ It was only about, ‘I want to run.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s good enough. And so I’m not going to let you come out for the team.'”
For Cohen, a coach who is very straightforward about his old school ethic, it’s fairly remarkable that district leaders would knowingly undermine their longest tenured head coach, a leader who is a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association coach of the year award this year.
For his part, Cohen insists that there was no ultimatum made for him to accept the player he disagreed with as part of the team. Rather, he left of his own accord, and has yet to be disappointed with his decision.
“I can also tell you I’ve not had a second thought about what I did,” Cohen told the Courant. “I have not at any time said, ‘Gee, I wonder if I made the right decision.’ As much as I miss coaching and miss the team — and I realize I’m letting kids down who are on the team and working hard — I have not had the least bit of question about whether or not I did the right thing. It went against my core values. And the reason why I coach. …
“It’s got to involve learning life lessons. And those life lessons have to be about teamwork and commitment and discipline. And understanding that you have to get along with people. Respect for one another. You don’t have to love everybody on the team but you have to show them respect. There’s nothing in my opinion more important than the team.”