Coach Resigns Citing Values

October 6, 2017

As Boys' Cross Country Coach at Simsbury (Ct.) High School, Mike Cohen won four state championships and was a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year award. Last week he resigned following a disagreement with school officials.

According to the Hartford Courant, Cohen taught biology at Simsbury for 35 years, coached cross country for 30 years, and founded the indoor track program. He said resigning was necessary to stay true to his values as a coach.

"It's not the way I wanted my career to end but it's in keeping with me," Cohen said. "I am old school. My values are old school. I think I'm extremely modern in my knowledge and approach to coaching but I'm old school when it comes to core values and what we're trying to accomplish. Sports has to be, in my opinion, something more than just running up a wins and losses record. It can't be competition for competition's sake.”

Cohen said that his conflict with the administration began when he decided that a runner who was on the team last year but did not finish the season should not be allowed on it this year, citing the runner's bad attitude and lack of commitment to the team. The day after Jeff Pinney, the athletic director, and Andrew O'Brien, the principal, decided that the runner would continue to be part of the team, Cohen turned in his resignation, saying the decision went against his principles of what it meant to be part of a team.

"It's got to involve learning life lessons,” Cohen said. “And those life lessons have to be about teamwork and commitment and discipline. And understanding that you have to get along with people. Respect for one another. You don't have to love everybody on the team but you have to show them respect. There's nothing in my opinion more important than the team."

Pinney declined to comment on the runner's current status, but said that he had tried to address Cohen's concerns. Pinney said he was surprised to hear about Cohen's decision to leave.

"Mike was an outstanding coach here for many years," Pinney said. "His decision to resign was a surprise. It was his decision to make. He will be missed by many athletes and families and we wish him the best moving forward in his life."

Cohen said that in the end, resigning was a choice he made himself, as well as a choice he does not regret.

“As much as I miss coaching and miss the team — and I realize I'm letting kids down who are on the team and working hard — I have not had the least bit of question about whether or not I did the right thing,” Cohen said.

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