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Our View: Some members of water polo team need reminder about respect

Teenage boys and girls join high school athletic programs for many reasons, including to enhance skills in a particular sport, to experience the camaraderie of being on a team and to enjoy the thrill of winning.

When all these forces come into play, a team can have a memorable – even magical – season. But a negative side can exist within a team dynamic as well, and that appears to have been the case with the boys water polo team at St. Charles East High School.

On April 15, Jacyln Weber, the former coach of East’s boys water polo team, resigned from her position.

In her resignation letter, obtained by the Kane County Chronicle through the Freedom of Information Act, Weber wrote: “After much thought, I have decided that I no longer feel safe, comfortable or respected around the members of the boys water polo team. ... I feel the words and actions of some of the members of the team have caused too much damage for me to continue in this position.”

Weber’s decision to resign was backed by East athletic director Mike Sommerfeld in a letter he addressed to parents and guardians of the team’s players. The letter was dated April 15.

“Due to the inappropriate behavior displayed by several of the team members this past weekend, as well as the general lack of respect the team has displayed towards [Weber], she has come to the conclusion that she can no longer serve as the team’s coach,” Sommerfeld wrote. “I support her decision.”

Although St. Charles School District 303 has declined to go into specifics about what behavior certain members of the team displayed, it is clear that lines were crossed.

The consequences of this are multifold. A coach has resigned, and the water polo team has missed regularly scheduled games. In fact, the entire boys water polo season was almost canceled – an extreme measure that happens rarely once a team’s season has begun.

In addition, the reputation of the team, St. Charles East and District 303 has been called into question. It is unfortunate that some misbehaving team members put their teammates and school in that position.

When an athletic program performs at its best, a team will have demonstrated respect, fairness and grace. Clearly, some members of East’s boys water polo team need a strong reminder of what it means to act respectfully, and we hope their parents and District 303 make it clear that actions have consequences – and that such behavior is unacceptable.

Furthermore, we ask that District 303 be more upfront – proactive rather than reactive – when it comes to communicating matters such as this to the community and media. Taxpaying parents who have children that one day might consider joining the boys water polo team deserve to know what is happening within the program.

In 2011, an outside review of East’s athletic department revealed the school’s drill team had “numerous complaints,” including charges of harassment, hazing and battery, with Superintendent Don Schlomann noting the bullying worries go “well beyond the drill program.” 

Open communication and clear, enforced consequences would go a long way in District 303 making sure its athletes – and the rest of its student body – behave appropriately and treat others with respect.

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