This is a sad and unfortunate story involving Hampshire Unit School, Tennessee and middle school basketball.
For the past two season my daughter has played for the Hampshire girls middle school basketball team. She started every game last season and the first 12 games or so this season until, inexplicably, she was benched.
Benchings happen and playing time is never a given; this parent understands that. However this is, arguably the second-best player on her team, being benched for no given reason other than “because I’m the coach”.
The coach would be Jacie Hinson in, what I believe to be, her first season as a head coach.
Early on I thought Ms. Hinson brought real improvements to the team but as the season wore on it became increasingly obvious the real improvements were the addition of two eighth-graders and the maturation of the three returning starters from the previous season.
Numerous times these kids came to the stands after their game (followed by a boys game we were required to watch) in tears. During the games themselves you could see the self-confidence of a number of players shrink with each mistake.
I’d see a player do three good, even great things, then make a minor error and Coach Jacie Hinson was all over them.
Rather than coach these players up, she’d stand on the sidelines rolling her eyes as-if she could barely tolerate being associated with group.
It was rare an encouraging word was heard.
And you could see it in the body language of many of these kids. When they made a mistake the first thing they’d do was look to the bench. It was sad to watch.
After one game my daughter had tears in her eyes and I asked her what was wrong. She told me she had a headache. Trying to determine the cause I asked if she was getting enough to drink. She said it was because of stress from from interactions with her coach. Clearly my daughter wasn’t enjoying the experience.
I learned first-hand that Ms. Hinson has authority issues when I confronted her, via email, regarding the negative impact she was having on my daughter’s self-confidence and love for the game.
Her response? I was banned from attending practices, which I had attended regularly in support of my daughter, even though I’d never said a word during a practice. Ms. Hinson didn’t confront me directly, instead having the principal of the school contact me via phone to notify me I was no longer welcome.
Things moved along until it came time for us to move along.
As-in a pending move of our family became imminent and when the date was set it became clear that my daughter finishing the season with her team was in jeopardy.
On November 5th I visited Hampshire Unit School’s Athletic Director, Enoch Thweatt, to notify him that we would be moving over Thanksgiving break. When speaking with Mr. Thweatt my first concern was to explore if there was a way that my daughter could finish the season with her team in spite of the move. We had delayed the move for as long as possible, as it was, hoping to get Rachel through as much of the season as possible. As the team, up to that point, had performed better than expected it became an even more difficult situation for us. We wanted this team to see it through.
Mr. Thweatt indicated “no”, she would not be able to continue with the team after the move however he said he’d contact the Tennessee school sports authority to see if there might be some way to maintain eligibility.
I didn’t hear from Mr. Thweatt again. And on a daily basis I asked my daughter if anyone had mentioned the move, and her answer was “no”.
This seemed odd, but it also coincided with her inexplicable benching.
When I say “inexplicable” I present Exhibit A: earlier in the season Hampshire beat Mount Pleasant, in Mount Pleasant’s gym by a score of 20-19. This was a thrilling, amazing accomplishment given that team destroyed Hampshire last season by a score of 50-5!
In that win my daughter played all but a few minutes of the game. This team had a solid starting 5 but a young, inexperienced bench this season. They had to rely heavily on the starters.
Well, game two against Mount Pleasant is the puzzler. My daughter didn’t start for a second consecutive game. The previous non-start was also a loss in a close game Hampshire should have won. In the second game against Mt. Pleasant she didn’t play but 3 minutes in the first three quarters. This team we just beat weeks earlier was crushing Hampshire 33-3. Yes, 33-3 after three quarters of play.
There was no reasonable explanation for my daughter not playing other than the assumption “they’re preparing for life after her departure”. Rachel was on the floor for the entire fourth quarter and the final score was 35-18. I don’t claim her to be solely responsible for the difference but the difference was undeniable.
And this is where our story turns truly sad and “pathetic”.
It became clear this coach has an agenda with my daughter, or is taking out an agenda with me on my daughter. Either Ms. Hinson did not understand the cause of success in game one, or she was more focused on sending a message than putting the team in a position to win.
My daughter was instrumental in shutting down Mount Pleasant’s post players and this enabled two of her teammates to generate offense by stealing passes on the perimeter. In effect, that was pretty much the only offense this team was able to generate all season.
If you’ve ever seen a game in which coaching was the reason a team lost, this was it.
That’s not how Ms. Hinson saw it, apparently. After the game she unleashed a verbal tirade on the team. The main point being how “pathetic” they were.
To further the abuse Ms. Hinson pulled aside the team’s top player and chastised her to the point of tears. This is a young lady that has carried this team all season; tough as nails, I didn’t think it possible to make her cry.
My daughter told me what happened and suggested she (the young teen player) could use a few uplifting words. That opportunity didn’t present itself in person so I made this post on her Facebook wall:
Head up ****. I don’t know what your coach said to you tonight, but tonight was on her – not you, not your teammates. I wish you all the best with what remains of the season. You girls should be proud of what you’ve accomplished this year.
She “liked” the comment as did a number of her teammates and parents. I stand behind the veracity of the statement.
Apparently Ms. Hinson didn’t appreciate this, so she went to school administrators who attempted to phone me about it. This post was made on Thursday evening, November 19th and at practice on November 20th the girls team was warned against “making fun of” players or coaches via social media.
This post I made was the cause of this warning. And the girls were punished by running the entire hour of practice.
To be clear the post wasn’t about the coach. The post was about lifting the spirits of a child who’d been grossly demoralized and verbally abused.
It gets worse from here. This was Rachel’s final game (11/19) and practice (11/20). Our phone was unplugged this day (11/20). The following day we moved (11/21). For Rachel, season over and on to Thanksgiving break we went.
The warning at practice, apparently, wasn’t the end of it. School “officials” claim they attempted to phone me regarding my social media post. I didn’t receive their messages as our phone had already been disconnected. I can only surmise the point of their calls were to warn me personally, which is to say attempt to intimidate and discourage me from further comments.
The first Monday (11/28) after Thanksgiving break the team had a game. I wrote the coach that day to let her know we’d turn in Rachel’s gear at the Fall Awards Banquet.
She didn’t return my message but apparently this was the first she’d heard of the move. The AD had failed to mention anything to her.
The AD, Enoch Thweatt, then wrote me the next day stating we hadn’t notified him of when the last game would be. That is false. He was notified, in-person, on November 5th that we were moving. He denies there was a set date. Again, that is false. We’d already scheduled the date with a moving company. Mr. Thweatt was informed but either A) forgot or B) is being dishonest in an attempt to cover for not doing his job.
Mr. Thweatt then goes on to say that given my social media comment, the non-return of his messages (which weren’t received – and all parties have my email, and obviously know where to find me on social media) and “our failure to notify” him that Rachel was not welcome to attend the Fall Awards Banquet.
In effect, Mr. Thweatt failed to do his job and is seeking to make this “they quit”.
When I inquired to ask if Mr. Thweatt had made the effort to contact TMSAA . . . he did not respond.
When I inquired to ask if Mr. Thweatt or Principal Sonya Cathey also called the youngster sent home in tears, or to ask the coach what kind of verbal abuse would prompt that from the girl . . . no response.
These are the people who are paid to teach our children to do right in the world, to be role models, yet they fail to accept accountability for their own actions. Covering their own is more important than anything happening with these kids.
That is how gross abuses of institutional corruption happen and that is why I feel required to share this with the public. From point A-to-Point-B the ONLY concern that has been expressed has been for the coach – not the players. My daughter deserved better. Her teammates deserved better. As Americans we have the Constitutional right to express ourselves and question our public servants. And these public servants have gone to great lengths to discourage, intimidate and bully their way to shirking their responsibilities.
I have plenty more I could share but we’ll leave it at this. I am happy to address any and all questions or comments regarding the situation.
Sincerely, John R Barker