Coaching staff frustrated by perceived parental influence
Ryan Sauter resigned from his post as Forest Lake’s varsity girls hockey coach on Friday, April 11.
The former head coach spent three seasons with the program, tallying a record of 27-41-5. His tenure included a Section 7AA championship and state tournament appearance in 2013.
Sauter said he made his decision following a meeting with Forest Lake Activities Director Joel Olson and High School Principal Steve Massey at the season’s close.
“A lot of factors went into this decision, which was a very difficult one for me,” Sauter said. “The program hasn’t had a head coach for more than three years, and the turnover rate has been a problem for the program.”
Assistant coach Paul Bailey will not be returning to the program either, which also factored into Sauter’s resignation. Bailey was voted the Section 7AA Assistant Coach of the Year this winter.
“The first thing they said in the meeting was that ‘Bails’ was not allowed back, even though nothing in those reviews had anything negative to do with Bailey,” Sauter said.
Sauter said Bailey had written the School Board about the need for more structure within the administration.
Olson and Massey declined to comment on specifics.
“What I would say is I can’t get into personnel discussions due to data privacy, so I can’t go there,” Massey said. “My answer in response is of a general nature – that programs are evaluated by the administration, including the activities office, then recommendations for moving forward are discussed and put in place.”
Prior to Sauter, Jeff Neidt was the head coach for three years. Heidi Link preceded Neidt for one season, and Paul Kendrick coached in an interim role for two seasons before that.
Current junior varsity coach Rick Shelafoe has been with the program for eight years. The Forest Lake resident said the program has had difficulty with parents. He said this winter, with the team coming off its second state appearance in 12 years, was the worst.
“They are on an agenda for their kids, basically,” Shelafoe said. “I think Ryan basically resigned because the administration did not stick up for him. After three or four times in parent meetings, we asked Joel and Steve eye to eye if they would have our backs and they said, ‘Don’t worry, we have your backs.’ And then in the interview, they didn’t.”
According to Sauter, six of 32 players’ parents submitted negative coaching evaluation forms through the Forest Lake activities website at the end of the year. Some parents warned their daughters would leave the program if Sauter remained the head coach, he said.
Massey said the forms are just one tool for evaluation.
“I would say that players and parents are asked to provide feedback after an evaluation process,” he said. “Those are read and considered, but parents are not involved in what changes may be needed in a program.”
Shelafoe is unsure of whether to continue with the program now that Sauter and Bailey have left.
“I loved coaching with them — they knew their stuff,” Shelafoe said. “What happened is the administration buckled to a grip of parents who banded together.”
Bailey said in his 15 years of coaching almost every level from youth to college, he has seen a rise in parental influence on a national level.
“I just feel sorry for Ryan, and this isn’t the first time it’s happened, and once again they’re going to get away with it,” Bailey said. “Parents have the audacity to say, ‘It’s not fun for the kids,’ but it’s OK to destroy a man’s career and reputation. Tell me, where is the balance in that?”