Archive for Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Turmoil surrounds team

Players, others use Web site to express opinions on coaching situation

June 28, 2006

Last month, the Tonganoxie High softball team was riding the wave of a regional championship and the team's first state appearance in school history.

But the team's 20-4 season wasn't picture-perfect, according to some players. And it appears that because of conflicts involving the team's co-coaches, some players could leave the squad.

One player, who asked that her name not be used, said the team dealt with "drama" last season.

"All the issues that went on this year just kind of caused it to go down the drain," the player said. "We love playing softball but under these circumstances, under this coach, it isn't fun for us anymore."

The player referred to coach Debbie Himpel, who with Craig Lohman co-coached the team last season.

Last Wednesday, the Lawrence Journal-World named Himpel and Lohman as area coaches of the year.

After a story about the honor appeared, some players posted comments on the Journal-World's Web site. Himpel had been interviewed for the article, but Lohman had not. And while Himpel's photograph appeared in the newspaper, Lohman's did not.

In comments on the site, some players said they were upset that it appeared in the Journal-World story that Himpel was the team's head coach.

Players indicated on the site that many Chieftain players would not play in 2007 if "changes" were not made. And, some players said they hoped to speak with school officials about the situation.

The player who spoke to The Mirror said many current players would come back next year if: Lohman returned to coach or a new coach were hired to replace Himpel.

Other players were contacted, but they did not return calls to The Mirror.

Lohman also coaches many of the Chieftain players on the Tonganoxie Braves squad, a competitive summer team.

During past summers, Himpel has coached her daughters, Lauren and Lindsey, in competitive softball, but she said she wasn't coaching them this summer. Lauren, who will be a sophomore, and Lindsey, who will be a junior, play on the Olathe Lazers squad. Lauren earned first-team recognition on the Journal-World's all-area squad, while Lindsey was a second-team selection.

Lohman out as coach

Lohman recently quit the THS softball coaching job, and on Monday he would not comment on his reasons.

Himpel said Monday she had learned about Lohman's resignation last week by reading an article in The Mirror.

Lohman also declined to comment about the postings on the Journal-World Web site, but Himpel had this to say:

"I've seen all of those. I don't know that it's worth commenting on," she said. "I haven't talked to Craig. All I know is what I saw there."

Regarding the apparent snub of Lohman in the coaches-of-the-year story, Himpel said she took her daughter Lauren to the Journal-World for a photo shoot because first-team selections were pictured in the all-area team layout.

At that time, a sports writer informed her that she was coach of the year. Himpel said she told the reporter the squad actually had co-coaches. Himpel gave the writer Lohman's phone number. She also called Lohman on his cell phone and left a message, Himpel said.

Lohman said the only call he received was a missed call from Himpel, but said he did not return the call.

In some of the players' posts, they were critical of Himpel's role on the team, stating that Lohman did much of the coaching.

Himpel said Monday that coaching duties were split between the two coaches, and that some of coaching responsibilities involved behind-the-scenes work as well, such as rescheduling games and practices and organizing equipment and uniforms. She said she also was at the high school checking players' grades each week to ensure they were eligible.

In addition, Himpel said she and Lohman would converse before each practice about what the team would work on in practice and "always communicate who was going to be in the starting lineup and who was going to be substituting, who was playing varsity and who was playing junior varsity."

"We had dual roles, and we each were responsible for certain areas of the coaching," Himpel said. "I'm just trying to clear the air."

Athletics director Brandon Parker could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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