— WTNH News 8 (@WTNH) October 6, 2016
Anyone who has spent any time on the gridiron — even at a young age — likely knows the typical punishments a coach will dole out if his rules aren’t followed.
There are “suicides,” a grueling running exercise in which participants have to run to the 20-yard line, touch it, then run back to the end zone (then the 30, then the 40, etc.). If you’re in “Friday Night Lights,” there’s running up a muddy hill in the rain then walking back home.
And then there are typical, old-fashioned laps around the field, as in “take a few laps.”
That last one is what Todd Kennedy, then volunteer head coach of Durham Middlefield’s football team in Durham, Conn., made one of his players do after that player bullied a teammate.
It’s also why he was dismissed.
A report from WTNH stated that Kennedy had spoken to the entire team, which is composed of fourth through sixth graders, about the ills of bullying. He made sure they knew he wasn’t going to tolerate such behavior.
At some point after the talk, Kennedy was told that one of the players was still bullying his teammates. So, the coach approached the boy, who denied it. Still, in keeping with football’s most popular punishment since time immemorial, he had the boy run a few laps around the field.
He told the station that when the boy was finished running, he lauded him for taking his laps without complaining — another classic coach trait.
— Kristen (@FactotumLLC) October 7, 2016
The next day, though, Kennedy was suspended. The following Monday, he was fired when the board of the football association unanimously voted that he couldn’t volunteer as the team’s coach.
“[One of the board members] said why did you feel that you were qualified to handle this bullying incident? I’m like because I’m a father,” Kennedy told WTNH.
Added Kennedy, “You start questioning yourself, absolutely.”
Kennedy had two sons on the team, but he has since pulled them off. He told the station he wouldn’t have a problem if another coach had made his sons run laps if they had been bullying another player.
Finally, he worried that the team will be left confused and rudderless.
“They never heard from me, so now you’ve got these children that I’ve been coaching since August and all of a sudden their coach just disappears,” Kennedy said. “What I’m going to miss the most is seeing what we would have done this year, seeing if we would have gotten to the championship game.”
While the board hasn’t responded to WTNH’s requests for comment, Shannon Riso, the mother of one of the boy’s teammates, has taken action by pulling her son from the team.
“Bullying is okay — that’s the message I got,” Riso said. “That’s why my son is not going to play for them. I want him to be around better role models than that.”