NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Jack Vaughan does not think burning trophies is a good way to inspire athletes. In fact, the former New Canaan Youth Football player became upset when talking about the controversial actions by New Canaan Black coaches to close out the 2011 season.
“When I played with them, it would never have been tolerated,” said Vaughan, 20, who also played at New Canaan High School before transferring to Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford. “We were taught to respect the game and be competitive.”
Last month’s burning of third-place trophies in Irwin Park angered many parents and youth football supporters. New Canaan Black’s coaches — Rod Fox, David Jahns and Jay Pirrone — resigned from the New Canaan football executive board Tuesday. They also sent a letter to the players and parents apologizing for burning the trophies.
Vaughan, who now attends Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., said the trophy burning does not serve to motivate anyone. The players should have been told to work harder next time, he said. New Canaan High Football head coach Lou Marinelli “wouldn’t do anything like that,” Vaughan said of the fire.
Marianne Kay, a former athlete, agreed that burning the trophies didn't help anyone. “I’m disappointed,” Kay said Tuesday before driving out of the Morse Court parking lot. “I don’t think the kids should be exposed to that.”
New Canaan Recreation Director Steve Benko expressed his disappointment, too. “It was just a stupid thing to do. It didn’t teach any life lessons to the kids. I think the gentlemen involved have been chastised by their peers, and they’re embarrassed by what happened.
“It took the spirit of sportsmanship down a good notch,” Benko added. Only a small section of grass in the park was damaged, he said. It should grow back in spring, he said.
Sally Campbell, chairwoman of the field usage committee of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said the incident was inappropriate, but it’s an anomaly among youth sports coaching in New Canaan.
“Ninety-nine percent of coaches and parents are doing things for the welfare of the kids and they are really good role models,” she said. “Once in a while, you’ll have an errant coach that takes things a little too seriously.”