A source close to the Haverford Ice Hockey Club contacted the Haverford-Havertown Patch to state that another coach has been fired and it may have been due to favoritism.
This comes after a number of already high profile firings. The Haverford High School boys’ soccer coach got the boot last winter, followed by the high school boys’ basketball coach this spring, and then Haverford Ice Hockey Club boys’ coach last Friday.
Now Kelly Winther, head of the highly successful girls’ ice hockey club, is the latest coach to go down associated with Haverford High School.
Winther confirmed with Patch that she found out last Friday, April 15, that she was fired, without any explanation and the leading reason stated was a poor evaluation on an anonymous coaching survey.
Anonymous surveys are believed to be the leading reasons for the firings of Severini, McNichol and Cleary.
It should be noted that the Haverford Ice Hockey Club, to which Cleary and Winther were a part of, is not directly affiliated to Haverford High School, though the school does recognize the players as varsity athletes, yet do not award the players with a Haverford High School varsity letter. The Haverford Ice Hockey Club is a private organization not funded by Haverford High School nor funded by the Haverford School District.
What makes Winther’s dismissal more unique than the other three coaches is that Winther currently teaches in the Haverford School District, at the middle school. Because of that, she opted not to speak publicly about the matter any further than saying she was disappointed.
However, a source closed to the situation gives further insights into what might have gotten Winther fired.
“I believe that Kelly was fired because she did not pay a certain player any accolades. The player in question started complaining to her parents and any one else who would listen and rallied a couple of other players to complain to their parents as well,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous, told Patch.
The female player is allegedly the daughter of one of the board members of the club, the source revealed, but the source would not name the girl or the board member because of fear of retribution.
Board members oversee the Haverford Ice Hockey Club.
Despite being a “great” player, the girl was not chosen to be team captain and started to “butt heads” with Winther, the source stated, adding that other parents and even some board members allegedly started to complain about how uncooperative she was.
“The board member's daughter had definite attitude problems and was referred to as a ‘cancer’ on the team. As good as a player as she was she should have been kicked off, long before the coach,” the source revealed.
Because of this, the board member allegedly started to complain about Winther and wanted Winther fired back in October of 2010, but some board members objected to this, the source stated.
During a February meeting of this year the board decided that surveys, which one of them accompanies this article, would be sent out by March to parents to evaluate, among other things, the coaches of the various leagues. The surveys were returned to the Haverford Ice Hockey Club this April.
About eight surveys came back regarding Winther and about half of them were allegedly positive about her and the other half were negative, according to the source, stating that surveys played a key part in the dismissals of the two coaches at the club.
Because there were complaints against Clearly over the years and a complaint about Winther was brought to the board in the fall, the board had a discussion regarding the two coaches and allegedly came to the conclusion that it would look suspicious if it fired Winther after one grievance and not Cleary, who had many complaints against him, the source declared.
The source voiced the opinion that Cleary was “sacrificed” in order to get Winther fired.
“I believe the writing was on the wall for both after that,” the source stated. “I don't really believe the surveys were the cause, I believe they were the convenient excuse. Let's face it, you can manipulate results any way you want to. ...”
“Coach W. did not deserve to be let go and did nothing to warrant it. I think Winther was thrown under the bus,” the source stated.
The Haverford Ice Hockey Club’s surveys were used before the results came out about the two high school coaches, the source stated, adding that the school district has nothing to do with the ice hockey team.
“The surveys were sent out independently and I think it is just a coincidence that this all came to fruition at the same time,” the source stated regarding the closeness of the firings at the club and high school. “There will be a new board voted on in May and hopefully they won't use the surveys again. This was the first year they were used.
“We’re hoping people will come out to the May 17 meeting and talk. Hopefully the new board will reinstate Kelly and Brian.”
In two years, Winther directed the Lady Fords to the InterCounty Scholastic Hockey League championship in their inaugural season last year, and guided the Lady Fords back to the league championship again this season, where they lost to Unionville.
Though Winther, on spring break vacation, was not in a position to speak, there were few people who were more than willing to speak up for her, and again, what is going on with coaches associated with Haverford High School.
“It bothered me what happened to Coach Winther, she’s an amazing coach,” said Haverford senior Lindsay Baker, a multi-sport varsity athlete at Haverford who played for the ice hockey team and will be attending Virginia Wesleyan next fall to play field hockey. “I was confused and angry that it happened. I liked Coach Winther. No one had an issue with her—in front of her face.
“What I have a problem with is that I don’t understand what is happening in this school right now. If coaches are doing a good job, why are they being let go? We were a new team last year and we won a league championship. I played with a bunch of girls I got along with and for a coach we all loved. It had to do with the surveys. I don’t agree with these anonymous surveys. I know the guys loved the ice hockey coach, I know the basketball team loved their coach, and the guys on the soccer team loved their coach. No one has asked for our input, other than those surveys.”
Winther’s assistant coaches, Brielle Jones and Dan Mariani, whose daughter, Leah, was on the team, were just as baffled. They were confused over the fact that the girls program was successful, yet it seems Winther’s fate came down to a few disgruntled parents.
“We’re all wondering what is going on here,” Jones said. “I don’t see any real reason behind it. … The girls appreciated her. I never heard anything from any of the girls, and I was the good cop, I was an assistant. I would like to coach somewhere else, but I won’t ever want to go back to Haverford, that’s for sure. I’d definitely like to stay with Kelly. It’s kind of terrifying that if you’re a coach, do you want to come to Haverford and coach here?”
Mariani has lived across the street from McNichol. He saw the time commitment and dedication he put into the boys’ basketball program, and followed suit himself in coaching various hockey teams—one time coaching four clubs at once. Mariani stressed that it’s not about the money, or the small acclaim that comes with coaching.
He said it was about the passion for sports and helping young people. Mariani, who also works for Haverford Township, wanted to make sure not all Haverford parents should be branded with the same “difficult” label. In fact, it is a scant minority that seems to be garnering the attention, he noted.
“I really don’t think this area will get a bad knock, because good parents are seeing what’s happening and they’re speaking up about it,” Mariani said. “With what is going on right now, would anyone want to coach in Haverford? I know I don’t like what’s going on. I think the evaluation process stinks. Kelly was a good coach. I think she at least deserved an explanation and possibly another chance. I enjoyed coaching with her for two years.”
Repeated phone calls and emails sent to the Haverford Ice Hockey Club and its president, Dave Martin, by Patch have not been returned.