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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)

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.)

Legacy Comments6

Next Fri. the NHBCA will be meeting. The "Shadow" team is one of the topics of discussion. This is an Alumni Team From Sunapee `11 member team that for the last 2 year have been Scrimmaging Against Sunapee to prepare for NHIAA Scheduled Play... Will every team in the state now be able to Scrimmage too prepare for sanctioned Competition? Is there going to be a suspension handed down? Because it's DIV will it just slide as a nonissue??? Ignorance of the Law is never been Excepted by a Judge in the court Room. Now is this the same on a Hoop Court? How do you Judge The Judge??? Better Question; Who Dares?

Very nice post John. Coaches do deal with these issues on a daily basis. But we now have our schools dictating which behaviors should have harsher punishments. Then we read about a 9 year old girl who shaved her head in support of her friend who has cancer. That school suspended her because she broke the dress code. Also had another student dye his hair pink in support of breast cancer and he was suspended and was not allowed to participate in track meets. The dress code over ruled support for cancer. You shake your head in disbelief.

The championship game isn't all that far into the "future" from the regular season. If any mistake was made, it was by not waiting until the championship game had been played before deciding who gets the award. But who could guess the Player of the Year, especially this one, would do such a dumb thing? No, the only mistake here was made by Patrick Welch. And he knows it.

The Shadow Team?? Lets see if the NHBCA is as Quick to rule on One of there Own? Sunapee boys basketball Reported it the Eagle times That for the Last 2yrs. They have Use 11 alumni As an Unsanctioned Team to Prepare For NHIAA Sanctioned teams. Strict NHIAA By-Laws Article 1 section #8 says, This is against the rules. If this is legal then wouldn't every coach do it?

Eat your hear out, F Lee Bailey. That's a mighty tough full-court press defense you've posted up for Patrick Welch, Mr Carr, but it misses the point in my opinion. The NHBCA didn't revoke Pat Welch's award as division II Player of the Year because they found a flaw in his PAST. They revoked it for what he did in the direct aftermath of the championship game. Specifically, the profane tweet he sent to Portsmouth HS. If that isn't the epitome of poor sportsmanship, then please tell me, what is? Furthermore, isn't the Player of the Year award that was revoked bound by sportsmanship? Of course it is. This act of discipline, however unfortunate, came as a direct result of Pat Welch's own egregious and disrespectful act. There has to be some accountability here. Would you have the NHBCA just let it go because Pat Welch is otherwise a "good boy"? If so, wouldn't that be favoring him over someone else who may've done the same ill-advised deed? The NHBCA did what they had to do, and while your lament is well intended, it does nothing to aid the subject in the learning process. Pat Welch's own actions earned him this punishment. He will learn from it, and suffer no irreparable harm. Equally important, the next kid will think twice before acting so irresponsibly.

I thought the award was based on his past performance, not on his expected future performance. I don't think the punishment fit the crime. The mistake was that it got publicized and then politicized, and the leaders of NHBCA didn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to public opinion and treat this like any other instance of bad behavior by a player that is usually under the public radar, something that good coaches deal with effectively day in and day out.

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