Fort Pierce parents are concerned about more shake-up in the Fort Pierce Pop Warner Football League.
Just weeks after a qualified volunteer coach, Rick Meltzer, was told by the Treasure Coast Football Conference not to return to the field to coach dozens of young players, more people have been fired or quit as a result, they say.
Parents whose children played for Meltzer were angry, and concerned that the TCFC did not give a reason for terminating the much-needed coach. He has no criminal history or disciplinary issues with the TCFC.
Shortly after Meltzer was terminated, another coach who is also the president of the Fort Pierce league, Lionel Dunbar, was fired by the city of Fort Pierce.
The city manager, like Pop Warner, has not given a clear reason as to why they decided to terminate the volunteer.
Following Dunbar’s termination, several other Fort Pierce board members quit, according to Dunbar. He also says at least six coaches have quit, and more than a dozen players have left the league to follow their coaches to other youth football programs.
Parents are hoping the sudden changes will stop, worried that city and Pop Warner officials are impacting the children negatively.
The Junior Pee-Wee team is feeling the effects. More than 25 players now have just one coach, Franc Deal.
Just days before their first game of the season, the players, the parents and Deal say the kids are not as prepared as the could be if they had more coaches.
“One coach can not work for that whole team,” said mother, April Brooks. “We need more than one coach out here to get the boys to where they need to be, get on that field and win these games.”
“The kids aren’t ready,” Deal said.
Deal says he is down at least four coaches, and his team is not alone.
“About three teams worth of coaches,” he said, have recently left the league. “They decided this is too much, this is not what they signed up for.”
Kellie Papp says parents want more transparency. She pays $85 for her son to play, and wants the best learning experience for him.
“They say they can fire them just because. We never got any answer.”
Pop Warner officials say the league is not required to give explanations for their termination decisions. But given the fall out, parents say they feel one is needed.
“It’s not about the kids, that’s what more upsets me. They’re making it more personal,” worried Brooks.
Deal says he is sticking with his team, hoping the distractions will stop.
“It’s youth football. We shouldn’t have to be going through all of this,” said Deal.
Pop Warner’s national representatives stand by the local decisions, and say no kids will be denied an opportunity to play for Pop Warner.