Reinstatement of Coach Mark Stokes for Logan Lacrosse
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First, we express the invaluable attributes and reasons why we as players and parents feel that Coach Stokes has been and is the better part of Logan Lacrosse. Second, we list several concerns regarding the dismissal without cause of Head Coach Mark Stokes for the Logan Lacrosse program, and finally, we make a request of consideration for the betterment of the lacrosse program and spirit of partnership between the administration, parents, players and the program.
This act of dismissal of Coach Stokes is unconscionable for several reasons, as follows:
- Coach Stokes is a time-tested coach who has worked with many of these boys since elementary school. There is a deep coaching relationship that has been established, and we as parents trust Coach Stokes due to this long-standing relationship and devoted efforts Coach Stokes has demonstrated. We trust him with our children and his ability to represent Logan Lacrosse. He is Logan Lacrosse, having built an organization starting at the elementary level. He continually exhibits a level of extraordinary excellence in his coaching.
- Being a head coach is more than just being a warm body. A head coach must manage an enormity of organizational duties as well as understand the sport at a high level. Coach Stokes has demonstrated his expertise and managerial excellence over the many years to organize the team, tournaments and travel, parent support, team building and camaraderie amongst players, as well as team unity and sportsmanship. None of these attributes are to be taken lightly.
- Coach Stokes has the knowledge and ability to obtain excellent support coaching staff for the team. Due to his esteemed lacrosse reputation state-wide, Coach Stokes has been able to surround himself and the players with excellent support coaches and staff to help foster the young players’ talents and abilities in a very competitive contact sport. The staff he had already recruited for next year would have rivaled any college level team’s staff.
- Coach Stokes puts the boys first. Lacrosse has three levels of competition and many coaches could just choose the “easy” teams to play for an “easy” win and could make himself as a coach “look good.” Coach Stokes coaches our boys up to play against high-level teams. Coach Stokes speaks highly of all our players and is never judgemental. This is phenomenal as he sees all the players as a positive asset to the program in all their differing positions, talents, capacities and abilities. Coach Stokes opens his home to the boys for team-building; he welcomes all levels of lacrosse knowledge and abilities on to his team. Inclusivity is the word to describe his coaching style. That is a characteristic that is lacking amongst many people but not in Coach Stokes. He is inclusive of every player.
- Coach Stokes has been an incredible influence for good for these young men. No one from the administration was present at the Spring Sports Banquet for Lacrosse (or any games for that matter), but had there been, they would have seen caring, compassionate concern and celebration given to all the boys who worked very hard for this team. Coach Stokes made it possible for all the lacrosse players to earn an athletic letter and achieve this honor at Logan High.
Having noted just these few but important points of Coach Stokes’s exemplary leadership of the Logan Lacrosse program over the past years, we as parents are united in expressing both distress and concern over the handling of his dismissal.
- The first serious concern we have is in the transition of lacrosse moving to a school-sanctioned sport in 2019-2020.
The experience and knowledge of the head coach to help make this transition is extraordinarily important to the future success of the team. Coach Stokes has an immense understanding of lacrosse at all levels of play: club, competitive league, school-sponsored, and college level. He already possesses the knowledge necessary to make this transition as smooth as possible. We doubt many coaches could do the same.
- The second concern we have as parents is the administration’s lack of providing any reason for making this abrupt, jarring decision.
The administration gave Coach Stokes no reason for his dismissal. We understand that legally that is not required, but we believe that ethically there should have been. Because of this, every player and every parent are left reeling with this action being a reckless move by an administration and exacerbates the concern that no thought was given to our boys’ mental well-being and futures in lacrosse. Due to there being no reason for dismissing a highly-esteemed coach, parents are left quite concerned for the future of Logan Lacrosse and their boys’ success--several of whom have possible collegiate scholarships and futures in lacrosse, and many of whom are enjoying the sport simply for its amazing athletic competition and its team unity and friendships among other young men.
- When pressed by a parent, the administration claimed the dismissal was a financial decision. This is absolutely an errant excuse for the following reasons:
Coach Stokes completely donated his salary back to the lacrosse program for support staff and for equipment for boys who needed it, etc, therefore entirely benefitting the Logan Lacrosse program and the players. This generosity by our coach is unlikely to be duplicated by anyone else in this position.
If there was a financial concern for paying the coach, there could have been a very easy conversation to be had with Coach Stokes for receiving lower pay, which was not done.
The Logan High Booster Club has been instituted this year for fundraising and financial concerns. Certainly they would have graciously offered help in whatever capacity if necessary.
- The most paramount concern we have as parents is the apparent lack of concern and consideration for the players’ well-beings and best interests.
Most of these young men who have enjoyed the sport of lacrosse this year did so to find a team-building experience, competitive friendships, leadership from a trusted adult, and to experience an athletic outlet. Due to the mentally-distressing events of losing the football coach to a rival school blocks away only months ago, many of these boys have been hurting deeply and have felt zero support, care or compassion from the Logan administration in this horrific loss. Many of these boys were so affected that attending school was an onerous duty, and consequently, missed a lot of school due to the psychological impact of the head football coach abruptly leaving, in whom they had instilled a deep amount of trust. Lacrosse became a safe place for these boys, as many came over from the football team to join the lacrosse team. They found a caring adult in Coach Z from whom they finally felt acceptance, and an adult that gave them hope in their scholastic and academic futures, something to work towards, goals, and the knowledge that they mattered. The ability of a great coach to help young men feel a sense of belonging is immeasurable. The mental strain of losing Coach van Leeuwen has already had a huge impact on many of these boys. Our hope is that the administration would truly weigh the impact that losing another beloved coach (Coach Z) has and will have on the health and motivation of these boys. Due to the actions of the administration, the boys emotions are again raw, and feeling completely like pawns in some administrative game where they feel that they, yet again, don’t matter. This should be of considerable concern to the administration who is dealing with mental health crises at the school.
Football notwithstanding, the student-athletes are well aware of and feel the lack of support from administration because of how many adults do not wish to teach or coach at Logan High. Student-athletes are keenly aware of all the coaches and teachers who have been jettisoning the school, even the Athletic Director who is leaving for Ridgeline. Students are left feeling that their school doesn’t care about them enough to do what it takes to keep great teachers and coaches in their lives. Whether or not that is true, it is how they feel. Morale is at an all-time low and the student-athletes are in a grave position to hear that another of their coaches has been dismissed with no valid explanation.
The talent of many lacrosse players which has been honed and developed by Coach Stokes has appeared to not even be considered by the administration in this dismissal. Two players from 2017-2018 received lacrosse scholarships at the university level. There are several players who are in this position currently and have worked with Coach Stokes for years. Moving to an unknown head coach with unknown abilities and an unknown record of success puts these players who desire to play lacrosse collegiately under considerable distress. They see their futures in lacrosse jeopardized--and worse, that no one in the administration cared or considered this in their abrupt decision.
- Superintendent Schofield claimed that having teachers as the coaches is preferred and in his experience better for coordination. There is sufficient educational research which refutes that having teachers be coaches is actually better (see 75 references below).
a. There are currently several coaches at LHS who are not teachers who are not suddenly being fired.
b. It appears the administration lacked research and communication to the lacrosse community to find out how best the lacrosse program should move forward before making a rash decision. Few to none of the top lacrosse programs in the state have head coaches as teachers (including the assistant coaches).
c. We believe this action of firing an excellent coach out of nowhere to replace him for a teacher without the level of experience, know-how and relationship with the players is rash and completely without regard for what’s best for the players and the program. Since the superintendent explained that they simply wanted a teacher as the coach as the reason for dismissal, there is no doubt that such a transition could take place without creating such awful upset among the Logan Lacrosse Community.
Request and Petition for Coach Stokes’s Reinstatement:
We propose a way of transitioning the Logan Lacrosse program to a new head coach by Fall 2020. We feel that we can all come to a place of agreement and partnership in the following action to rectify the current situation.
Action Step: We request that Coach Stokes be reinstated as Head Coach for 2019-2020. The teacher for whom the administration would like the coaching position should be made Assistant Coach, so that Coach Stokes can provide exemplary support in training the assistant to take over as head coach Fall of 2020. This provides desperately-needed continuity for the program and the players thereby creating a stronger, school-sanctioned lacrosse program.
Reasons for Reinstatement:
1. Coach Stokes’s vast knowledge will give Logan Lacrosse the best possible support and viability in the transition to a school-sanctioned sport. Coach Stokes and the assistant coach can work together in this shift, allowing for a seamless transition with players, parents and coaching staff and Logan High administration.
2. The number one concern that is overarching this entire petition is what is best for the students moving forward. The case is definitely made above regarding morale, and these students desperately need someone in this district to understand their plight and work with them, not against them for the best possible outcome.
3. The request that Coach Stokes be reinstated is a completely reasonable request. Due to the reasons previously stated, it is beyond comprehension for the administration to make such an abrupt move for his dismissal. Also to be considered is the fact that teachers at the high school are encouraged to employ a gradual release of responsibility in their instructional practices. Should that not carry over to extra-curricular activities as well? Dr. Robert Marzano stated, “High-reliability organizations must adjust their operations to proactively prevent failure.” Logan High Lacrosse has a much higher chance of success if our presented action step is enacted.
4. Furthermore, as players, parents and coaches understand, starting over from scratch with a new head coach means new schemes, new techniques, and a learning curve which is very steep and discontinuous for players. A seamless transition of merging the plays and schemes of Coach Stokes with the new head coach for Fall of 2020 is the least disruptive to the players, the parents, and the program--specifically, a program which is viewed in this valley and state as a formidable opponent and excellent competitor. Coach Stokes built a team this year that was impacted by the graduation of 17 seniors the previous year! Through recruiting and advocating for the sport, Coach Stokes was able to replace those 17 players plus one more adding 18 new players to the roster. Then, under his leadership the younger players and those first-year players increased their abilities and came together as a solid team by the end of the season. Next year looks promising as the boys move up in rank.
We, as parents and players, ask that this request be thoughtfully considered and, most importantly, our players’ and program’s best interests be at the heart of the decisions made at Logan High. That should be a non-negotiable with TEAM Logan (Team Effort Always Matters) as we all work to support our students in their personal growth. Students will not have high levels of learning if their social-emotional needs are not considered when decisions of this gravity are made with reckless disregard.
The mission statement of the district is to: "Ensure all students leave our schools ready to create a positive future for themselves and their community." How can our student athletes do this if they don’t trust the very administration tasked with that goal?
On the district website there is a video that summarizes what makes Logan City School District students successful. One question asks, “What kind of continuity does my school provide?” The answer is that teachers and administrators work together to provide the continuity necessary for students to “develop the essential attitudes, behaviors, and skills they will need to succeed in life.” It also states that a “consistent focus leads to consistent supports.” Viewers are told that a “positive future in Logan School District starts with a personalized education.” It can’t be personalized if needs and concerns of students and parents are not considered.
By signing below, you show unity and support for this petition and request Coach Stokes’s reinstatement for the 2019-2020 school year.
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