Hynes resigns as Wilton field hockey coach

After helping build Wilton into one of the state’s elite field hockey programs, Deirdre Hynes has resigned as Wilton High varsity field hockey head coach.

In a letter to Wilton High School Director of Human Resources, Maria Coleman, dated May 5, Hynes wrote, “The climate within the Wilton Athletic Department and Wilton Administration over the last two years has undermined the foundation and success of this program.”

In the 17 years that Hynes has served as head coach, Wilton won five state championships and played in eight state title games. Last fall the Warriors won their first-ever FCIAC title.

She was named the Connecticut High School Coaches Association’s ‘Outstanding Coach of the Year’ for 2015-16, and was twice named the Connecticut Field Hockey Coaches Association ‘Coach of the Year’.

But an ongoing problem concerning confrontational parents (one family, she said), and the lack of support from high school officials in addressing the problem, led Hynes to make a difficult decision.

“An unsafe work environment has emerged and insufficient action on the part of Wilton leadership perpetuates conditions that make safety of coaches questionable,” Hynes wrote in her letter. “This climate filters down to concern of player well-being, as coaches are unable to advocate for player development and safety.”

The letter continued, “Undue influence by a vocal minority of parents also calls into question the effectiveness of the Wilton Athletic Department and School District leadership to advance the priorities and conditions which ensure a program of varsity athletics that support all players to develop their potential as student athletes. The unequal expectations leveled at female coaches underpin a climate of bias that is present and growing within the district. This bias is reflected by excessive requests and conditions that do no exist for male coaches or their programs. This bias helps to give license to the extremely abusive behavior I have endured from a handful of unreasonable individuals. The long term impact upon female student athletes witnessing this double standard and this abuse undermines the vault of participation in varsity athletic programs and is something I can no longer tolerate.”

Hynes said at the root of her decision were “two vocal” parents with a daughter on the team. After one of them had a confrontation with Hynes at an early-season practice, in front of the team, regarding his daughter’s playing time, she asked school officials to take action regarding his behavior.

No disciplinary action was ever taken, however, she said.

“The Unsafe Work Environment complaint filed on (Sept. 30, 2016) has yet to be resolved to the satisfaction of the coaching staff and the situation and conditions are unlikely to improve in the near future,” she wrote in her letter.

She said that field hockey coaches also had to follow several new requirements — on issues such as tryouts, playoff roster and captains — at the behest of school officials.

She said that team tryouts this year were videotaped, by an outside evaluator — something the team had never had to do before and that no other Wilton team had been required to do last fall, she said.

In late October, she was told she needed to provide school officials with the criteria used for selecting players to be pulled up to varsity for the post-season.

And Hynes said she had also been required to provide the criteria used in the selection of team captains, the day after next year’s captains had been announced at the team banquet in November.

Like the other demands from school officials, it was something Hynes had never been required to do over her 17 years as coach, with multiple superintendents, principals and athletic directors.

Director of athletics Chris McDougal could not comment on what is a school personnel matter. He said it would be very difficult to replace coach Hynes but that the school does plan to find a coach who will maintain Wilton field hockey's high level of success. He said the search for a new coach would begin this weekend.