NOTE: This was a letter addressed to the Youngstown Diocese and Bishop George Murray
DEAR SPORTS EDITOR:
My name is Anthony J. Natale, and I am a graduate of Warren John F. Kennedy, class of 1997. I had the honor of working with Shawn Pompelia for four years within the JFK boys' basketball program. I did it without compensation because I loved my alma mater and there was a need. What I found in return was Shawn became a valuable friend and mentor to me.
My father, Attorney Anthony M. Natale, graduated from St. Mary's High School in Warren. My aunt Janice was the first graduating class from the newly constructed JFK High School. My sister also graduated from JFK High School. My father, sister, and I are also graduates of John Carroll University. My mother, Barbara Natale taught at JFK, and was on staff during Shawn's first stint at JFK. My wife, Sarah Natale, is a graduate of Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Fordham University. As you can see, there is a long line of support and service not only to JFK, but a strong belief in the value of catholic education held within our family.
I cannot begin to express the sadness I feel for the way Shawn was treated and relieved of his duties in regards to his position as head basketball coach at JFK. Shawn's late father, Dom Pompelia, and Shawn have been a part of the "Kennedy Family" for over 40 years.
The most troubling aspect is the lack of support and loyalty shown to Shawn from the "Kennedy Family." The opinions of many longtime Kennedy supporters were ignored by administrators, some of whom never attended catholic high schools. These families with 40 years of service were voiced over by a "few" disgruntled parents who have 40 minutes of service to JFK. Both Mr. Sinchak and Mr. Rair should be ashamed of their statements to the media. I feel their statements were passive aggressive, showing JFK in a very poor light, and were downright disrespectful to Shawn.
If the accusations were so serious, why were none of Shawn's assistant coaches questioned? Practices were monitored by Dr. Lyons, what did he observe? I understand that Dr. Lyons' opinion may not have carried much weight considering the circumstances under which he vacated his position, but, I can assure you that I feel Shawn served as an excellent role model. If there were these occurrences, why weren't they addressed during the season, when they happened so we could move on. Shawn sat two players and endured a 50-point loss instead of caving on team rules of discipline and punctuality. That is leadership, and judging by the statements and letters published by the local papers, there are parents, former players, other members of the coaching staff and even opposing coaches that share this opinion.
Shawn's generosity does not end with basketball players. He helped many students with guidance and finances that never played one minute of basketball for him.
If Shawn's biggest problems are game-day decisions, strategy, substitutions, etc., then we were lucky to have him. Next year's team is filled with promise. That promise came from the sweat and tears of Shawn and his staff working early mornings, through the summer, and late nights to put these players in the best position to be successful. Now another coach can cherry pick next year's success off of Shawn's back. That is not right, that is not just.
My heart hurts not only for Shawn, but for the players who supported and followed Shawn even when their own administration and "select" parents were trying to destroy the team. By relieving Shawn of his coaching duties, you encouraged a few boys to continue to expect his parents to fix his problems rather than work harder and be good teammates. Shawn's tough love has made countless boys into men that take care of families and give back to society. That is what high school athletics should be about. I don't have a son, but if I did, I would hope that he would have a coach like Shawn to push him to be the best he could, and maybe push him farther than that. For the first time since 1997, I am ashamed to be an alumnus of Warren John F. Kennedy Catholic High School. JFK deserves better and so does coach Shawn Pompelia.
Anthony J. Natale