The future of the coaches of the North Platte Community College softball team could be decided today, after a 90-minute meeting between suspended players, parents, coaches and college vice-president Marcus Garstecki .
At 8:30 a.m., nine players and their parents met with Garstecki and the coaches. The parents asked for the dismissal of Head Coach Janelle Higgins.
Gestecki told them he would discuss the situation today with college president Ryan Purdy and athletic director Kevin O’Connor, who were both out of town.
Paul Homan, a parent, told the Bulletin that the meeting was conducted in a very professional manner. Everyone who wanted was able to speak.
“I think he was surprised at the number of people there,” Homan said. “He said he would get back to us today.”
Nine softball players were cut or suspended from the team in recent days, as the team suffers through a 3-28 season.
Critics say Higgins has been abusive to the players throughout the season, a dynamic that culminated in four players being locked inside the team bus Saturday as punishment.
That was the final straw for some parents at the conference tournament in Columbus.
“We wanted to establish that it is not an isolated incident; it’s a pattern,” Homan said.
Another parent expressed respect for Coach Higgins. He said extra practice sessions have been warranted and some girls simply broke team rules.
He said his daughter initially had the choice to play at several colleges, but the family chose North Platte because of Higgins’ ability.
“I have a lot of respect for her as a college coach,” he said. “She is not acting outside her realm. She is a coach and that’s her job. She’s doing a good job."
Higgins is in her third year as head coach. She coached the team to a regional championship last season.
On the other hand, Homan said some parents have asked police to investigate the confinement on the bus.
The Lady Knights went 1-5 in the Columbus tournaments.
The team is scheduled to play doubleheaders at home Monday and Tuesday.
For more information, see the related report on the Bulletin's front page – “College softball team struggles…” as well as the game scores and stats on the sports page.