Recently the Chester Upland School Board eliminated 4 football coaches. The Clippers football team will still complete the season. But the elimination of the 4 coaches resulted in the following open letter. This is a must read!
Chester Football Given Death Sentence
In three years, the Chester Football team has produced a record of 7-17. To put it mildly, this is not a great record. Is a win-loss statistic the only indicator of a successful program, though? The answer is an emphatic NO! In the past three seasons, those teams, while finishing below .500, have produced 15 college student athletes. All of these collegiate athletes are successful on the field and in the classroom. These students have enrolled in schools such as Widener University, West Chester University, Thaddeus Stevens Technical School, and Delaware State University. If you were to ask any of these fine young gentlemen who helped lay the groundwork for their current success at the collegiate level, they will tell you it was the coaches on the football team.
As a current coach at Chester and a former coach at Interboro, I have learned that a coach does not just teach the x’s and o’s of the game. Effective coaches help teach the life lessons that form a foundation for success in an athlete’s life. Self-discipline, motivation, and a commitment to a goal are some of these life lessons. As a member of Chester’s football staff, I realize these lessons are the foundation of this team’s success. This is why, as a coach on the Chester Clipper staff, it was shocking today to learn that the staff was drastically downsized. Eight outstanding mentors and leaders of young men were cut down to four. Making the job harder, was the fact that our head coach was instructed to eliminate not only positions but, if necessary, freshmen and junior varsity football if he could not make due with his new skeleton crew of a staff.
Everyone is aware of Chester’s financial issues. What makes this most shocking is the fact that the football team was not a financial burden on the school district this year. After taking an inventory of the team’s equipment and formulating a list of the team’s needs, it became apparent that the district had been forced to neglect the team’s equipment, uniforms, practice and game facilities because of their lack of financial resources.
The facts were staggering. The game jerseys were twelve years old; the practice jerseys were twenty-two years old. Numbers were faded and missing. The jerseys were tattered and worn. Shoulder pads worn by players in the 2011 season were from the late eighties, in some cases. The thigh, knee, and hip pads were even older. These issues were not just cosmetic; they also posed safety issues. Our players needed proper protection.
Some of the biggest issues, though, were off the field concerns. Rodents in the high school were using stored practice equipment as a place to nest. To save this equipment from further damage, it had be moved to a secured storage container outside of the building. At some point, scrappers stole the team’s chutes and two-man sled. At the Athletic field, the toilets do not work. The water cannot be drunk from the fountain because it comes out a putrid, blackish brown. At the high school, the situation is the same.
The coaching staff decided something had to be done. We could not wait for the district to attempt to come up with the funds by themselves. Teaming up with Coach Montgomery, we were able to raise $30,000 through public grants and private donations. This money went to buying new jerseys and pants, plus knee, thigh, hip, tailbone, and shoulder pads. With the help of local businessman Joey Iacona, we were able to procure a storage locker for our pads. We were able to buy specialized sleds to replace our two-man sled. The team’s seven-man sled was cut down to a five-man sled and the remaining portion was converted to a two-man sled.
What should have cost the district $30,000, cost the district nothing. There was no district-incurred cost for this fundraising. All of the legwork was done during the off-season when the coaches essentially volunteer their time. In spite of the savings to the district and the fact that between freshmen football, junior varsity football, and varsity football there are 50+ young men being mentored and looked after everyday, the school district saw fit to cut the staff from eight to four and leave it up to the head coach whether to continue the junior varsity and freshmen season.
I have never been a political man, but my philosophy on life when dealing with the masses is simple. Cherish your elders and traditions and mentor your young. The Chester Upland School Board has failed its city on all accounts with its actions toward the football program this week. Congratulations! You have destroyed and crippled a once proud football program, completely disregarded the pride your graduates and alums have in the school’s football tradition, and given walking papers to some of the finest mentors of young men in your city.