March 18 • 10:32 PM

Imlay tackles concerns

District investigates complaints, meets with football coach

October 07, 2009
IMLAY CITY — One week after parents voiced their concerns at a school board meeting, administrators have completed what they call a "thorough investigation" into claims of coaching misconduct in the football program.

Superintendent Dr. Gary Richards said he and high school Principal Stu Cameron have also met with varsity head coach John Forti .

"Although I am not at liberty to discuss the details of this investigation or the outcome of the meeting with Coach Forti, I want to reassure the parents of our community that we expect all of our coaches to develop effective coaching relationships with students, while at the same time maintaining a high level of personal and professional conduct," Richards said.

A coach's professional conduct includes motivating players through positive recognition, not fear or intimidation and refraining from using profanity or obscene language. Those were some of the allegations parents leveled at the coaching staff at the September 28 meeting.

"And above all and at all times, we expect coaches to act and behave professionally and to be positive role models for our student-athletes," Richards said.

"Coaches that do not adhere to or embrace these expectations will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including non-renewal and/or immediate termination."

Richards praises the current coaching staff as being highly qualified and experienced, noting that Forti and his assistants have lots of seasons under their belts.

"I have never worked with a more dedicated, hard working and knowledgeable group of coaches," he said.

Prior to his last three years in Imlay City, Forti spent four seasons with the Capac football program. Assistant Bill Nestle logged seven seasons, also at Capac, including the head coach job. Assistant Ritchie Feys has logged seven football seasons in Almont, three in Farwell and six in Imlay City. Assistant Steve Lestage has been coaching football at Imlay City for ten years. In addition, Nestle, Feys and Lestage are all college football alumni. All are teachers in the area too. Forti and Nestle teach in Capac, Feys in Almont and Lestage in Imlay City.

In light of the meeting, Richards said the district will continue to examine the decline in football participation.

Richards reiterated that there are likely several causes, including the popular soccer program, other fall sports including tennis and cross country and an increasing variety of extracurricular activities.

"However, we are in the process of brainstorming ways to increase student participation in football," Richards said.

Providing insurance for student athletes is one option.

"Some parents do not allow their children to play football or participate in other sports because they do not have adequate insurance to cover expenses due to injuries," Richards said.

They are also looking into offering a weightlifting class at the high school, a suggestion offered up by several parents at the meeting.

Richards said they continue to seek recommendations from parents.

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