EDITORIAL | Unruly soccer coach and free pass set a poor example

It appears South Whidbey soccer coach Terry Swanson’s time on the bench was short-lived.

At a special meeting Thursday, South Whidbey Parks and Recreation commissioners unanimously agreed to lift his one-year ban from district facilities and planned to revise internal rules/policies concerning field use so as to avoid similar problems in the future.

This decision, perhaps, was not the best one. The policies in question may need an overhaul, and Swanson has shown himself to be an excellent coach and valued member of the community — he was highlighted in The Record’s Hometown Hero series in 2007 — but what the board demonstrated to the public, and more importantly to kids on the team, is that the rules don’t always apply, especially when they are considered silly or unnecessary and broken by a well-regarded community leader.

Last month, district officials temporarily suspended activities on a field Swanson has used since the start of soccer season. The field, and others, were closed due to heavy rains, which softens the turf and makes it more susceptible to damage from heavy use.

Swanson was asked to relocate, but he refused. In fact, district officials allege he disregarded multiple staff directions. Eventually, an Island County Sheriff’s deputy was called and Swanson was presented with a trespassing citation. Following existing policy, Swanson was subsequently banned from district fields for a period of one year.

In Wednesday’s edition of The Record, Swanson expressed frustration that many of the Sports Complex fields were closed for athletic use and called his actions “a case of civil disobedience.”

Swanson’s comment merits a chuckle and perhaps a smile of understanding. Everyone has at one time or another defied a policy or rule they disagreed with. It’s like the underage driver who sneaks dad’s car out for a spin in the middle of the night because he believes he’s old enough to drive. But in this case, Swanson was busted, and instead of getting grounded the parks board agreed with his point of view, tossed aside the rules and allowed him to go his way.

Rules are a part of life, and we’re all asked to live by them, even state title-winning soccer coaches.

The athletes who look to Swanson for leadership would have been far better served had he demonstrated how to address his grievances by bringing them to the board for redress rather than with an overt display of “civil disobedience.”

Also, a one-year ban is excessive — even six months is probably too much — but the board’s decision to give Swanson a free pass sets the wrong example.

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