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Letter to Editor: Parent critical of baseball coach's behavior



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April 17, 2013 - As an Oxford resident, taxpayer, athletic booster and a family that has supported the Oxford School system for the past 16 years, I am disgusted with the way in which I am being put off by OHS Athletic Director Mike Watson.

Many people may think I am just a mother of a son being "singled out" and cut from the varsity baseball team in his senior year. Let me put those rumors to rest right now.

I am writing to you, in hopes of educating Oxford on the "coach" who is running our varsity baseball program at Oxford High School. As I stated in my correspondence with Mr. Watson, OHS Principal Todd Dunkley, and Superintendent Dr. William Skilling, this coach, Mr. Jeff Willis, is the epitome of a substandard coach. I can now "tell all" because my son no longer has to face retribution.

First and foremost, my belief is that the most important thing Mr. Willis is seeking from the boys on the team is respect.

He demonstrated this while pounding his fists on the ground one day, asking the team, "Why don't I get the respect as a coach that Bud Rowley does?"

Well, let's see, maybe it's because he used a derogatory term for homosexuals to describe the way one of the boys looked in the glasses he had on; looked right at his courtesy runner during a game and exclaimed "All my courtesy runners suck;" or it might be because after one of the last scrimmages of the season, he stated "I can't wait for this season to be over because I can't stand some of you."

I'll never forget how he put a JV pitcher in his first varsity game and told him, "This game is on you. YOU!"

It states under Section 1 of the Athletic Code in the handbook that athletes are not to display any acts of gross disrespect or insubordination. Are coaches exempt from this rule? Abuse is abuse, regardless of what kind of spin you put on it.

Mr. Willis is not capable of recognizing each and every boy's skills because he doesn't treat all athletes fairly. He operates under two sets of rules; one being for his "chosen" few and another for the rest of the squad. My point being, it's all about who you know and not about what's really best for the team.

Please understand, while at first, I couldn't understand why a boy who has been playing baseball for the past 12 years was told he cannot play during the most important year of his high school career – and not even given an explanation as to why. That had me fuming, but I am now pursuing the major concerns in the best interest of future athletes.

Anyone taking a coaching position should do so because they want to teach these athletes to grow as individuals, so they can become better people in the world, on and off the field.

If this was a teacher or a mentor, I was writing about, this kind of behavior would be highly scrutinized. A coach's behavior is paramount in determining whether he is respected or not.

How he acts, conducts himself and interacts with the team will determine whether or not he is held in high regard. I can guarantee you that the way in which Jeff Willis treats these boys on a daily basis is not healthy.

He is doing far more damage than good for the varsity/baseball program at Oxford High School. This is not pro baseball; these are the formative years.

Rather than building these boys' self-esteem, he is tearing it down.

Using ineffective coaching tactics, such as humiliation, demeaning and disrespectful behavior as his "tools" for coaching is a wonderful way to kill the passion that these boys have for this sport.

I was approached by other parents, willing to sign their names to this letter. I chose to instead withhold names because of the fact that their allegations are not something I witnessed firsthand and if they feel as strongly as I do about this matter, they will get involved.

I suspect that Mr. Watson has a fairly thick file of complaints regarding Jeff Willis.

I followed protocol, submitting letters to the administration.

While Mr. Watson was the only one that did reply, I don't believe, from his response, that this matter is being taken seriously.

I urge parents and players (past or present) to speak up so that Oxford can have a coach that will win games, develop athletes and promote players to the next level.

Stefanie Deeg

Oxford

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