After two seasons at the helm, South Whidbey girls soccer head coach Brian McCleary has resigned.
He is the second head coach to step down in two weeks, following head football coach Michael Coe, who hung up his whistle on Nov. 25.
The Falcons went 4-25 overall in McCleary’s two seasons. McCleary took the program over from former coach Ben Rusch in 2015. It was his first head coaching job at the high school level.
“All told, it really had mostly to do with the lack of time I had to commit to the program that it really needed,” McCleary said.
Responsibilities such as staying up on player eligibility, scheduling and practice plans bogged him down too much, McCleary said. He also pointed toward “unfortunate” parent interactions as a contributing factor to him stepping down. He said some parents were upset their kids were not playing enough and that there was a perceived lack of support for the junior varsity team, which had no subs throughout the season.
The varsity squad wasn’t much better off; they had only two or three subs, he said.
“They didn’t understand that varsity is the priority,” McCleary said. “…It’s not like we had 10 subs sitting on the sideline.”
Coe battled similar circumstances prior to his resignation, though far more extreme, when a group of parents banded together and advocated for his firing or resignation. McCleary said parents were supportive during his first year, but things changed during the fall of 2016.
“Some parents have this idea about their children and where they think they belong in the world,” McCleary said. “They’re not shy about letting coaches know that.”
“It’s unfortunate. It really is,” he added.
Athletic Director Paul Lagerstedt said he was aware that parents were dissatisfied or had issues, but that it wasn’t beyond what is “fairly normal” for a first-time head coach.
“On any given year, and on most sports, we’re going to deal with some parent frustration,” Lagerstedt said. “That’s not unusual and especially for first-year head coaches or first-time coaches. That’s something we try to coach them through.”
McCleary thought he helped set a standard of expectation amongst players. Part of that came as a result of making accountability a requirement. Being accountable for oneself and the amount of effort given were among his major focal points.
“He’ll be missed,” junior Mikayla Hezel said. “He really brought our team together, that’s for sure, especially because we were all so young.”
Assistant coach Ernie Merino thought McCleary was able to keep a Falcon program that has struggled in the past afloat..
“His biggest concern was, ‘What can I do to keep it alive and heading in the right direction?’” Merino said. “I really think he was able to do that.”
“I’m impressed with how much he was able to do in the past few years. I was grateful he brought me along. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be coaching,” he added.
Merino, who has coached the boys and girls junior varsity teams the past two years and premier and select teams over the past half-decade, plans to apply for the position once it is posted on the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association website.
“I loved coaching with Coach McCleary,” Merino said. “It was fun and enjoyable. I really enjoyed coaching the girls; they’re a great group.”