What started as a concerning e-mail escalated into an extremely heated meeting and has become a full-blown fiasco.

Walworth Big Foot head football coach Rodney Wedig couldn’t believe what happened Monday at Big Foot High School, and he isn’t sure if it’s going away anytime soon.

The highly-respected Wedig, whose Chiefs are currently 6-0 and have advanced to the state final three of the last five seasons and won it all in 2009, along with the school’s principal and athletic director, met with three people at the school, one of which is an angry parent concerned about his son’s playing time with the varsity football team this season.

The parent sent Wedig an email last weekend and said if Wedig didn’t call him back, he would show up at the school on Monday.SPORT CHECK LOGO web

“I tried calling and left a message, but when they did not return the call I forwarded the e-mail to the administration because I felt the meeting could be a little heated due to the nature of the e-mail,” Wedig said via e-mail Wednesday.

The parent, a relative and a family friend actually showed up, and they weren’t there to praise the coach’s football expertise.

In fact, it was a blatant attempt at intimidation.

“You will play my son or else,” the parent barked at Wedig.

Absolutely shocked and speechless, Wedig said he was so taken aback that he couldn’t even concentrate on what the man said next.

He added he has “connections,” he would “go to the papers” and that he “knows people.” Wedig, normally a stoic, confident presence, was shaken to his core.

“This entire meeting was way out of control,” he said. “I have had some pretty heated discussions with parents before but nothing like this. In today’s world, you never know (if the threat was real).”

 

Trying to forget what had just occurred, Wedig walked to football practice. He began questioning his very existence as a head coach, one that probably includes a future induction into the state coaching Hall of Fame.

Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig hugs former player Carter Hehr after the team’s heartbreaking state final loss last season.

Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig hugs former player Carter Hehr after the team’s heartbreaking state final loss last season.

“I began coaching middle school girls basketball when I was still in college,” said the 46-year-old. “So I have been coaching at some capacity for over 25 years. As I was walking out to practice after the meeting, for the first time in all those years a thought crept over me about whether this is really worth it.”

Wedig said it’s too early to tell what will happen with this. He has no problem openly discussing players’ roles with parents, as long as it is done with class and dignity. This particular instance was the complete opposite of the ideal discussion.

 

“I believe parents have the right to understand what their son’s role is with the team,” Wedig said. “I have no problem discussing that as long as it is done professionally and I am treated with the respect I feel I have earned as a coach.”

Respect is an understatement. Wedig has built an undisputed reputation for winning at Big Foot. In seven-plus seasons as head coach, Big Foot has made the playoffs every year, and the school hoisted the ultimate prize in 2009, the Division 4 state championship.

Alumni like Travis Frederick (Dallas Cowboys), Mike Walker (starter, St. Cloud State), Carter Hehr (University of Arizona), Garett Cary (North Dakota) and Mason Dixon (Beloit College, former state player of the year) have graced the football field and helped turn a once-struggling program into a perennial state title contender.

Moments after Wedig’s Facebook post Tuesday night about the ordeal, the community and friends showed their support. With 21 comments including one that stated “The community has got your back,” it’s easy to see why this man is so loved and hard to see why someone would show him such unabashed hatred.

“From my experience, it seems like when teams are losing, parents want a winner, and when they have a winner they want their sons to be the stars,” Wedig said. “As a parent, I understand the passion they have for their sons but they have to understand that coaches at the varsity level are paid to win. If they don’t win, they get fired.”

A proud father, Wedig praised his kids on Facebook just one day before the meeting. He has coached his sons and daughters in football and basketball.

“Hard to believe I have gone full circle from watching my kids play to watching them play and coach. Truly enjoy watching Jake and Gus coach. They teach, they encourage and they have fun and make it fun for the kids,” he said.

At the end of the day, Wedig loves coaching and enjoys the people in the community. One bad apple won’t change that.

“The vast majority of the parents in the communities of Big Foot are great, supportive people,” he said. “I don’t think this incident takes anything away from that, and I am very proud of all my former players. I am glad most of them stay in touch.”

This is a column of personal opinion.

 
 

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