DEAR SPORTS EDITOR:
I am writing this letter to voice my support for Shawn Pompelia as well as to voice my displeasure regarding the politics behind his termination. I had the pleasure of playing for coach Pompelia while he was an assistant under John Condoleon from 2000-2003. During my time at Kennedy, coach Pompelia encompassed the true definition of what it means to wear the JFK uniform. His passion for the game of basketball, as well as his passion for the school, is unmatched. More importantly, his ability to get the most out of each student-athlete on the court, in the classroom, and in the community is what sets coach Pompelia apart.
I was lucky enough to continue my basketball career at Walsh University where I looked forward to the weekly calls from coach Pompelia offering encouragement and advice. He attended several college games and I routinely made the trip back home to help out at practice and to attend JFK basketball games. JFK basketball is about family, and coach Pompelia laid a foundation so strong, that alumni want to come back to watch games. Alumni still want to be involved with the program.
Coach Pompelia is a man of integrity who truly cares about each young man that he coaches. He keeps in contact with his players long after they have moved from the area. He sends birthday cards, Christmas cards, and text messages just to check in and make sure everything is going well. Coach Pompelia keeps tabs on all of his players and frequently offers support in times of need. He is the first to send congratulations when a player gets married or has children of their own. He is invited to weddings, baptisms, and college graduations. He treats all of his players like his own family and shares in the joys of our lives long after we have finished playing for him.
I have recently come to understand that a major factor in coach Pompelia's dismissal centered around his practice methods. It is no secret that coach Pompelia demands a great deal from his players in the way of effort and heart. Coach Pompelia is a firm believer in hard work and this forms the core of his coaching style. Any player that has played under him would be willing to run through walls if he asked them to. You didn't have to be the most talented player; you just had to be willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. This work ethic is what has made coach Pompelia a successful coach, businessman, father, and friend.
Were there practices when Coach Pompelia was hard on players? Absolutely. However, he was hard on players because he expected more from us. He did not want us to make the same mistake again. In reality, he was teaching life lessons through basketball. He never talked down to us and he never personally attacked us. He pointed out our errors but was the first person to pat us on the back the next practice when we corrected our errors. He could break you down, but he always built you back up. He was instrumental in preparing me for college basketball and for the real world situations that I commonly face today. I cannot thank him enough for the days when he was hard on me. These were the days where I grew not only as a basketball player, but as a person.
The circumstances surrounding coach Pompelia's non-renewal have led to increasing unrest among former players. We know the kind of man coach Pompelia is and we know what he stands for. Toward the latter part of the season, administrators were required to be at practice to monitor coach Pompelia's practice methods. He was criticized for occasional swearing. If certain players were yelled at or disciplined during practice, select parents would call the president of JFK or even the Diocese of Youngstown to complain. JFK basketball became about pleasing parents and administrators rather than being about hard work and tradition. A coach cannot perform in a situation where every move is criticized. The situation was unfair and this kind of action from disgruntled parents and players has no place in high school athletics. The dismissal of coach Pompelia sends a message that this type of behavior is accepted at JFK. Unfortunately, this is not how the real world works and I am very concerned about the current direction of JFK basketball.
Coach Pompelia epitomized what JFK basketball stands for and his dismissal is a poor reflection on JFK. Despite the recent events you will not find coach Pompelia speaking bad about his alma mater. He does not want to tarnish JFK's reputation. He has taken the high road and anyone who knows coach Pompelia would not have expected anything less. Finding a replacement for coach Pompelia will be an impossible task. Coach Pompelia's commitment and service to Kennedy will be missed. I certainly would like to express my gratitude and heartfelt thanks to coach Pompelia for all that he has done for me.