Connecticut XC Coach Resigns After Being Forced To Keep Athlete On Team

Mike Cohen stuck by his gut earlier this year and resigned from his position as head coach of cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field at Simsbury High in Connecticut after his school's administration forced a team decision on him. 

"It's not the way I wanted my career to end but it's in keeping with me," Cohen told the Hartford Courant. "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." 

The 68-year-old coach, a retired science teacher at Simsbury who had coached the cross country and track and field program for 30 years -- he even started the school's indoor track team -- was told he must keep an athlete on the team with whom Cohen took issue with the season before.

Cohen, a four-time state champion coach in cross country, said he believed the runner didn't have the right attitude and wasn't on the team for the right reasons. 

"I told the athletic director I really didn't want him on the team given his history," Cohen told the Courant. "The AD suggested I ask the kid what's changed. So I approached it with him. Basically the answer I got was, 'Nothing has changed, I've paid my participation fee ($175 at Simsbury), I can run.'"

Leaning on his old school values, Cohen decided to turn in his resignation after the administration told him that the athlete should remain on the team. Cohen cited in his resignation that taking the athlete in would count against his core values of "commitment, discipline, and teamwork."

Simsbury's athletic director Jeff Pinney was shocked by the resignation. 

"Mike was an outstanding coach here for many years," he said in a statement. "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."

Pinney said Cohen never voiced his concerns about what had existed previously with the athlete. 

"None of coach Cohen's concerns were brought to our attention before this season," Pinney added to the Courant. "We did our best to support him. We told him, 'Here's how we would like to support you and address any concerns you have,' but unfortunately, that was not able to happen."

Cohen was a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association coach of the year award this season. 

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