My Turn: In Pembroke basketball case, punishment doesn’t fit the crime
Pembroke's Pat Welch (right) defends against Portsmouth in the final game of the Division II championship on Saturday, March 16, 2014 at UNH in Durham. Pembroke, the defending champions, won the game and secured their title. Welch was named Player of the Year in his division, but had the title revoked after a tweet about Portsmouth that the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization considered "flagrant unsportsmanlike behavior." (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor file)
When Pembroke Academy basketball player Patrick Welch decided to send his now famous tweet, he made a mistake. When the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Association decided to inject itself into the situation, particularly by punishing him the way it did, it made a much bigger one.
After tweeting, Welch was immediately found out and, by all accounts, he was put through the wringer by Pembroke Academy Coach Matt Alosa and the school’s administration. Pembroke Academy and Welch faced this situation head on by traveling to Portsmouth to issue a sincere apology. It could not have been easy for any of the individuals involved, to go crawling into Portsmouth High to issue that apology, yet they did it. Collectively, they owned it.
Welch learned a valuable lesson. He embarrassed himself, his school and, perhaps more important, his Granite State Raiders coaches Matt and Frank Alosa, who mean so very much to Welch.
However, that wasn’t the end of the situation. The NHBCA determined its awards have a character component to them and Welch’s character does not meet the standards the NHBCA demands of its award winners. The coaches association decided Welch’s character is so flawed that it must withdraw every speck of recognition he has earned over the course of the season. By rescinding Welch’s Player of the Year honor, removing him from both the senior game and the Twin State game rosters, the association reached much further into the matter than it ever should have.
If character is really an important component of the award, one would assume they had done some level of research into Welch’s character prior to bestowing the honors upon him. Had they done this, they would have found a fantastic kid who is more positive and giving than 99 percent of the athletes in New Hampshire.
I am the parent of two former Granite State Raiders and, more important, of two current players, ages 11 and 13. I have seen firsthand the enormous commitment Welch has made to the younger players in this program. He doesn’t just show up occasionally to help out, coming in when he feels like it, or when someone tells him to because it will look good on his college application. No, Welch is always there.
I don’t think there are that many high school players who walk into their local gym to help young players at 8 a.m., Saturday and Sunday, weekend after weekend. This is a rare and awesome display of community service, of selfless commitment to others.
Additionally, as a coach of a unified soccer team, I can speak to the character of a kid who signs on to be a partner on one of these teams. I have yet to meet a partner on a unified team who doesn’t display great sportsmanship and character. In Welch’s case, his participation isn’t without sacrifice. He is a top-notch athlete who could easily have excelled in the sport of his choice. Last fall, Pat chose his handicapped friends at Pembroke Academy. To me, that says much more about character than does the one poor choice he made last week.
NHBCA, you really overestimated your role in this situation and as a result you have done a real disservice to a terrific young man. No, your punishment did not fit the crime!
(Thomas Carr lives in Gilford.)