Several students, parents and staff members turned out at the Dec. 8 South-Western City School Board of Education meeting to stand up for a coach.
Central Crossing High School softball coach Rick Wemlinger’s contract was not renewed. Now supporters are speaking out.
According to the district, the coach was under a supplemental contract, which is common for athletics. The contracts are awarded on an annual basis and there is no guarantee of renewal.
In February, the high school was notified by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) that the softball program had committed an infraction in sports regulation. The notification stated that during that month Wemlinger conducted open gym practices where he hit ground balls and provided instruction to team players.
According to OHSAA guidelines, softball coaches are to have no contact with the team from Aug. 1 through Labor Day. From Labor Day through Feb. 23, unstructured free play is allowed, which means the players can practice, but there can be no coaching. The coaching season for softball begins in March.
As a result of the infraction, the Comet softball program will not be permitted to participate in any school sponsored open gyms in January 2009. They will also be prohibited from one scrimmage this season.
According to the district, Wemlinger again committed an infraction against the open gym policy this month. He allegedly allowed a parent to conduct organized open fields, making it his second offense of the year.
Parents and students said the coach was unfairly dismissed.
Kendra Willis, a sophomore at Central Crossing, said Wemlinger was a wonderful coach. She said he helped the team members on and off the field. Willis said he not only coached the girls in the sport, but also corrected their grammar and helped in academics.
"I’m upset about what happened," said Willis. "It is unfair and I wish he would be rehired."
Julianna Pritchard, the junior varsity coach at the high school, said without the structure the coach brought, the softball team would be compromised.
"I feel insulted by the way this matter was handled," she noted.
Parents expressed their anger over the dismissal and said it is not what is best for the students.
"It seems the administration does not want the Central Crossing High School softball team to succeed," said Randy Rhodes, who has a freshman daughter at the school.
"I implore the board to make a decision that is best for the kids."
Another parent, Lee Pyles said, "To say I am disappointed is an understatement. This is not in the best interest of the girls."
The board listened to each speaker, but did not comment on the matter.