DN tennis team coach resigns

By Robert Husseman, The Triplicate June 26, 2013 03:46 pm

Max Sweeney, right, at Saturday’s home tennis match against McKinleyville. The coach abruptly resigned Tuesday.
Max Sweeney, right, at Saturday’s home tennis match against McKinleyville. The coach abruptly resigned Tuesday. Del Norte Triplicate/Robert Husseman
The Del Norte High School girls tennis coach resigned after the Warriors’ Humboldt-Del Norte League match against Eureka on Tuesday, saying that the parents of some of the players were “pretty much teamed up against me.”

Del Norte girls tennis is scheduled to participate in a match Saturday at Arcata. It was unclear Wednesday what effect the coach’s resignation would have on the rest of the season.

Max Sweeney said he had come under scrutiny over the past few days for using profanity around his team.

 In Tuesday’s match, he got into a dispute with some parents after attempting to make a change in his line-up during the match.

Del Norte High athletic director Bob Hadfield was called over to the tennis courts, where he and Sweeney had a discussion.

At some point, Sweeney told Hadfield he was quitting.

Hadfield declined comment about the incident Wednesday.

“They said they already know someone that was better than me, and I sort of let them take over,” Sweeney said in an interview late Tuesday. “I have other things I can take care of in my life ...

“I was forced to step down,” he said. “There’s a difference between quitting just because you’re a quitter and quitting because the forces upon you are crushing you like a tin can. I’ve never quit at anything my whole life.”

Hadfield hired Sweeney on Aug. 14. The program had been without a head coach after Sara Miller resigned from the position in the spring; up until Sweeney’s hiring, Hadfield was considering canceling the season, he told the Triplicate at the time.

The school year began Sept. 4, and five players turned out for girls tennis — one fewer than the minimum required in a full match. Those players recruited three others to join the team and then won their first match, against Humboldt-Del Norte League opponent McKinleyville at home on Saturday.

Sources close to the team said Sweeney drew initial scrutiny when parents of Warriors tennis players heard him say profanities and make disparaging remarks during the McKinleyville match on Sept. 8.

Sweeney acknowledged his use of profanity, but argued that he had good intentions.

“In reality, it was trying to motivate them to stop slacking,” Sweeney. “They thought when I said a profanity word it was directed at them.”

Hadfield had heard the complaints from parents, and he spoke with Sweeney before Tuesday’s match, Sweeney said.

“Bob came and talked to me to tone it down,” Sweeney said. “He said, ‘Just be quiet. If you use any profanity you won’t be the coach anymore.’”

Sweeney appeared at the Eureka match wearing a black hat, sunglasses and a dark jacket. He did not converse with any of the Warriors players over the course of the match and did not provide instruction, he said, because “I didn’t want to.”

“Basically I was quiet and just trying to mind my own business,” he said.

After the singles matches were completed, Sweeney said he attempted to switch the lineup  for a doubles match.

“I just decided to put the two girls that had not played once this entire season (on the court),” Sweeney said. “I was just trying to do the right thing and let all the girls play.”

He said at that point two parents approached him about the change.

One of them “said that I was a coward for sitting there and not talking to them,” Sweeney said. 

Ultimately, the lineup was not changed.

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