Supporter disappointed in JFK's handling of Pompelia coaching situation
DEAR SPORTS EDITOR:
(Editor's note: This is a letter originally sent to Randy Rair of the Youngstown Diocese)
My name is John Richards. For eight years I have faithfully served as an assistant basketball coach at Warren JFK, seven of those years with Shawn Pompelia. I moved back to the area from Indianapolis, Ind. in 2003 so I could serve on his staff and give back to the school I love. I was also fortunate enough to play for Shawn while I was a student at JFK from 1990-1994. He was by far and away the best coach I've played for and continues to be a valuable friend and mentor.
My father, Attorney Charles L. Richards and my mother Janet Richards, sent our entire family, one brother and two sisters through the catholic school system, St. Pius, Blessed Sacrament, St. Mary's and finally JFK from 1970-1994. My father is also a 1960 graduate of Cardinal Mooney and a 1964 graduate of The University of Notre Dame. My grandfather, Charles Richards, was an impactful booster and fundraiser for Mooney while my grandmother, Stella Richards, was a long time employee in the Diocesan Administrative offices while working for the late Bishop Hughes. As you can see, there is a long lineage of support and service from our family to the Youngstown Diocese and Catholic School system.
I can not begin to express the disappointment and sadness in which this matter has been handled with respect to Shawn's status as head coach. I guarantee you will not find a more qualified and loving coach, teacher and supporter of JFK than Shawn Pompelia. I'm sure you are well aware of the Pompelia's support for JFK covering decades. From the enormous amounts of funds raised by his father Dom, to the 20 years of service and fundraising Shawn has done on his own.
What I find most troubling and difficult to understand about this entire process is the lack of leadership, support and loyalty that has been shown to Shawn this year. Families who have 30-40 years of money and support, with hundreds of hours of time and service dedicated the school and it's students have been pushed out the door with little gratitude or chance for finality on good terms.
When a few disgruntled parents who have been on the scene for just a handful of years can navigate and manipulate their way to the top, with sensationalized and fabricated claims against a successful coach with 19 years of experience and service is upsetting and very concerning. Instead of having the back of a well-respected coach, business professional, husband and father, the easy route in today's day and age is to dismiss him while making some irresponsible, vague and suggestive comments to the local papers. Not once has anyone ever approached me or another assistant coach to get more insight or information relative to claims made by players, parents or administrators. I find that to be odd considering the serious nature of the things that have been alleged and suggested all while being monitored by administrators for the majority of the season.
Shawn's contributions do not begin or end on a basketball court. The impact he has on his players and JFK outside the boundaries of the court can not be measured in wins or losses, personal achievements or awards. Every year, Shawn gives back to the community and school in numerous ways. From raising funds to refurbish the gym and school to feeding the poor on Thanksgiving Day to donating funds to students who are not even on the basketball team for mission trips are just a few examples.
Shawn's detractors can say all they want about his ability to coach basketball with respect to in game decisions, strategy, personnel, etc. One thing that can not be disputed though is his love for every single player that he has coached.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have been able to coach at my beloved alma mater for eight years. At the same time, I am disappointed in the final outcome for a second time. I am also very frustrated that we as a staff will not be able to coach a promising team next year. The time and effort that has been put into assembling this current group warrants that opportunity in my opinion considering all that Shawn has done for JFK. History certainly has repeated itself and not in a positive way.
My heart aches and my mind is uneasy for the current young men who Shawn has greatly impacted and even more for the young men who have yet to realize how lucky they were to have had a coach like Shawn once they step into the real world on their own.
John C. Richards
Fellow coach 'wowed' by JFK's decision
DEAR SPORTS EDITOR:
I am deeply disturbed after reading your article on Warren John F. Kennedy dismissing one of their own - Shawn Pompelia - as head basketball coach.
Why am I disturbed? I'm deeply concerned about the future of high school athletics. Do parents always coddle their children? If they did, the end result is a spoiled kid. Coaching is no different. Sure, we as coaches all make mistakes, but isn't it a pillar of Christianity to forgive and continue to love? I'm not condoning foul language, but if that is the metric in which high school coaches are fired then by all means please call my athletic director and put me in the class of coaches who have used a "potty word" and have me dismissed.
Let me tell you what I do know - I have known Shawn Pompelia for three years. Shawn Pompelia is a good coach. I've always been impressed with how hard and smart his teams play. Warren JFK has not been very talented. I've often said if he coached somewhere else (say Villa Angela-St. Joseph for example) he would be considered one of the best coaches in Ohio. He has built that program up from ground zero as a graduate of Warren JFK and this is what he gets? Wow.
Shawn Pompelia is a family man. He is not doing this for the money. He treats his team like his family, like they are his sons. His team went to church together, they did fundraisers for the school together. He has a high profile job outside of coaching with an amazing family that supports him in giving back to the school that he loves and this is what he gets? Wow.
Shawn Pompelia is a good man, one of the best I have ever met. Last year, his team went and fed the poor during Thanksgiving. In a day in age when coaches often self promote, Shawn never does. He tells me all the time, "It's about team, Kwas ... It's about Warren JFK." If I were in a leadership position at Warren JFK, I would tell the students this is a man we should emulate. Yet this is what he gets? Wow.
What you learn in coaching is that it is a thankless profession. What makes it worth it is the young men and families you get to interact with. You can either manage or lead your team. When you manage them, you always do what is politically correct in order to not upset one or two parents that will try to get you fired. When you lead, you make the best decisions for your players and your program regardless of what others may think. This is a risk you take when you are not supported like Shawn obviously thought he was. Like a parent, you have to teach your players and sometimes these lessons are not enjoyable experiences. What parents need to try to understand is that coaches are not just dealing with your child - they have to make decisions based on the entire family, the team, and in my good friend Shawn Pompelia's case - Warren JFK.
I truly feel for the kids at Warren JFK. They lost a good coach, a good leader, and a great man.
Guys like Shawn are at a premium these days. Best of luck trying to replace someone who cares about Warren JFK as much as Coach "Pompee" does.
Head boys basketball coach, Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School
Why some sports should switch seasons
DEAR SPORTS EDITOR:
(Editor's note: This was originally a letter sent to the Ohio High School Athletic Association and commissioner Dr. Daniel Ross).
My letter concerns the switching of softball and soccer/volleyball seasons and why they should be reversed.
1. First and foremost is weather. Our springs (in Northeast Ohio) are, as a rule, wet and very cool. This causes many games to be postponed or cancelled (our local high school team has had four of six scheduled games cancelled, one replayed). The spring weather would, conversly, have had little effect on soccer and no effect on volleyball.
Our autumns, by contrast, are warm and dry, perfect for softball, yet that hot weather can be brutal for outdoor soccer and make non-air conditioned gyms quite stuffy.
2. The other fact is that the girls would be coming off summer softball and be at "peak performance" level when the season begins (mid-August). Soccer (and volleyball also) would similarly benefit because the girls would be coming off the many indoor winter leagues that run from November through March.
I realize there will be conflicts (i.e. with track and tennis), however, we have those now (spring track and softball). No solution will be perfect, but the benefits of switching seasons far outweigh the minuses.