Hopes to recover from track and field turmoil

DSC_6862After a year of turmoil, Alex Coffin had to seriously consider if his job as the St. Thomas University track and field and cross country coach was going to be a good fit.

“If we had a poor climate for cross country this fall, then potentially my style is not conducive to the STU team,” said Coffin.

Last year was Coffin’s first year as head coach of the cross country and track and field team, as he took the place of former coach Scott Davis.

“I’ve been coaching since a lot of (the athletes) have been born, and I’m going to say that last year was my first negative experience coaching ever, where some of the events I truly dreaded the stress,” said Coffin.

The woes started last year with a trip to Prince Edward Island for an event. Coffin allowed two players to sit on the floor of vans that were already full. Coffin was reprimanded by athletics director Mike Eagles but no further action was taken.

As cross country transitioned into track and field, the team started to crumble. The squad lost half of their athletes, including the two cross country team captains.

“A lot of them were big fans of the coach the year before, and just felt that I did things in a different manner that they weren’t comfortable with, and that I was too competitive,” said Coffin.

Then, there were complaints by athletes to Mike Eagles, who passed those complaints on to Coffin. Though the problem with the PEI trip was a serious issue, some of these complaints seemed unwarranted to Coffin.

One individual complained about a comment Coffin had made when promoting their trip to Montreal, where Coffin said the people in Montreal were DSC_6765good-looking.

“If I’m going to get complaints about what I thought was an innocuous comment, then they’ve got to clean up their act too,” said Coffin. “But I don’t feel that they’ve been over the board that way, and I don’t feel I’ve been over the board that way.”

Another complaint was made about the McGill University meet in Montreal. It was about the women’s relay team, who made a mistake in their first run. The complaint said Coffin “had refused to tell the women’s team about a consistent violation they made while competing.”

According to Coffin, the complaint about the relay team was made by someone who wasn’t even on the team, and had quit after being on the cross country team. The person wasn’t on the trip, but made the complaint after hearing about it from the person who made the “good-looking” complaint.

This year, Coffin has taken steps to make sure his team is competing but still enjoy themselves. Coffin has done three feedback surveys, and has heard back from two of them. Both come up positive, and he is sure the third will be the same.

“I believe we had a great climate this fall.”

Elizabeth McArthur is in her second year on both the cross country and the track and field teams. She agrees with Coffin that this year is going better.

“The cross country team was small but it made it easier to voice concerns,”said McArthur.

She believes the improved atmosphere comes from another year under Coffin’s belt as the Tommies coach. Now Coffin understand the people on the team, and the players understand him.

“So now it is a better team dynamic altogether,” said McArthur.

Coffin believes the reason for the shift in attitude has a lot to do with who is back, or more specifically, who isn’t.

“A lot of the people who decided to make those complaints decided not to take part this fall and to me that’s their loss,” said Coffin. “Ultimately, last year needs to be categorized as a tough transition from a very popular former coach.”

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  • Brandon LeBlanc

    Correction: The squad lost all three of the team captain’s, not just two.

    Also, “The woes started last year with a trip to Prince Edward Island for an event. Coffin allowed two players to sit on the floor of vans that were already full.” Might also want to add in that the athletes who sat on the floor did not have seat belts, and that the act broke federal law.

    Few things for the reader to also consider:
    – “According to Coffin, the complaint about the relay team was made by someone who wasn’t even on the team…”

    This is true, however it doesn’t make the complaint untrue…who it came from means very little.

    – “One individual complained about a comment Coffin had made when promoting their trip to Montreal, where Coffin said the people in Montreal were good-looking”

    This is incredibly bias and an attempt for the coach to cover up what he actually said. For reasons pertaining to defamation law, I can’t say exactly what he said, but will state the comment was much more sexual, spoke not of people in general but of athletes, and was directed towards one specific gender. Also consider that Mr. Coffin is 45 years old and the athletes he made the comment about were, on average, age 18-22.

    – “I’ve been coaching since a lot of (the athletes) have been born, and I’m going to say that last year was my first negative experience coaching ever…”

    It may have been his first negative experience as a coach, but I can assure with 100% accuracy that it is not the first negative experience for the athlete’s he has coached.

    Lastly, a note to the writer: Next time when writing an article about a controversy on a sports team, I would recommend not getting just the words of the coach and the team’s communications director, but also some of the athletes who made complaints last year.

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