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A few weeks ago we got a message in the inbox from a parent of a former football player at Shepherd Hill Regional High School. She wanted us to write a story about her son’s former coaches. Shell Shocker corresponded with her in the inbox about it, and it didn’t go as she planned:
I agreed with 100%. A coach bullying a kid by yelling at him? What planet am I on where this has become a thing? When coaches are mean to you it’s because they care about you, and are trying to get the most out of you. These kids never would’ve lasted at Worcester South High School. My football coach at South High School (who shall go unnamed because he’d probably be charged with a hate crime by modern day standards) asked us one day, “Do we have cunts here? Do we have any cunts? Do we have any fucking pussies?”
I didn’t know what the right answer to that question was and he ended up making us do up-downs anyway. But my point is that football is the only sport where coaches talk like this. It’s part of the culture, and we all survived.
I’ll tell you what nobody did though – none of us went home and told our Moms about it. Because my Mom probably would’ve embarrassed me by raising hell like this. Other kid’s Moms would’ve said, “He’s the coach” and left it at that. That’s the difference between 90’s kids and these kids – we weren’t raised to be soft.
Just a disclosure here – I used to work and coach at Shepherd Hill. When Shell Shocker (who is a real person I hired, and has been on Turtleboy Live multiple times) told me about this I said we’re not getting involved. Not that I’m unwilling to do a story on Shepherd Hill, but because the Mom was nice enough about it and this was a dispute between her and the coaching staff that we would never be able to verify.
That all changed today when the Turtlegram and Gazette published this hit piece on Coach Dugan:
— Telegram & Gazette (@telegramdotcom) November 2, 2018
Here’s a summary of the Turtlegram article:
- 30 year old Shepherd Hill football Coach Ryan Dugan took over the team from his stepdad Chris Lindstrom 2 years ago, inheriting one of the most successful programs in the state in the last 10 years.
- Parents allege that Dugan has 1) ostracized injured players, 2) had punishment practices after losses, 3) “bullied” players by swearing, embarrassing them, and using sexual terms
- The article interviews several angry parents, including the woman who messaged us, but doesn’t get a single quote from a player or parent who supports the coaching staff
- One parent alleged that last year Coach Dugan made him play on an injured ankle against Wachusett, but an investigation by then superintendent Gregg Desto cleared him of these allegations. However, Desto said he addressed the coach’s “inappropriate” language during practice
- After a 28 point loss to Grafton the team had a 7 AM military style practice the next day in the mud that lasted 90 minutes and was entirely running, pushups, and other conditioning exercises
- Parents allege that after the loss they scrimmaged in pads from Monday through Thursday, but MIAA rules limits contact in practice to 60 minutes a week during the season
- Dugan doesn’t confirm or deny any of this, as coaches and teachers aren’t allowed to speak with the media
- Parents claim that Dugan is so hard on them because he’s telling them he’s preparing them to play in college
- At the beginning of the year principal William Chaplin, AD Sean Burke, and interim superintendent Kristine Nash warned him to change his “old school ways”
- Nash met with parents representing a grand total of 5 players, on a team with over 50
- A parent named James “Joe” Thompson has an injured son who plays QB, was one of the parents who met with Nash, and claims that assistant coach Clark aggressively asked him why he went to the superintendent first instead of the coaching staff after a loss to St. John’s. The parent says they felt threatened as Clark was in his “personal space”
- Clark was suspended indefinitely after the incident, and Dugan was suspended for one game due to potty language after the Grafton loss
- Dugan has abolished rules that ban injrued players from wearing jerseys at games, and said there was no truth to the claims that injured varsity players have to take the JV bus
Shepherd Hill has not had a losing since 2009, and plays one of the toughest schedules possible. They have sent countless kids to play in college, including Michigan starting tight end Sean McKeon, Boston College All-ACC offensive lineman and NFL prospect Chirs Lindstrom, UConn starting running back Kevin Mensah, and fellow BC offensive lineman Alec Lindstrom. They also have many more alumni dominating at other colleges, including Drew Jean Guillaume at Central Connecticut State and Nick Ostrowski at WPI.
— Adam Biggers (@AdamBiggers81) October 24, 2018
— The Detroit News (@detroitnews) June 18, 2018
— WPI Football (@WPIFootball) October 29, 2018
These parents are vouching for him after the Turtlegram hit piece came out.
She’s right. Whatever happened to talking to your kid’s coaches and teachers before complaining? Douglas Mom disagreed.
And what is really embarrassing is that administration has done nothing. They say one thing to parents and do something else. That's whats embarrassing. Standing up for children is not at all embarrassing.
— Kristen Lukasevicz (@KLukasevicz) November 2, 2018
Personally, I’m with the Mom whose kid is the starting tight end for Michigan, and had an illustrious career as a student and an athlete at Shepherd Hill. But that’s just me. I’m sure Sean McKeon has gotten reamed out by Dugan and the coaching staff before, but since he’s a winner he dealt with it instead of running home to Mommy.
I don’t know Coach Dugan very well at all, asides from some small talk in the locker room, but I do know this – he is incredibly popular with the players. He’s also very supportive of them and truly wants what is best for them.
Joe I have never been prouder of a group of young men than I was last night! Played passionate, inspired football against a great opponent… These past few days have confirmed to me and our team that there is so much love and support in our great community! https://t.co/mOmTImLsC4
— Ryan Dugan (@Coach_Dugan) October 13, 2018
And the fact that these parents only represent five players tells you a lot. The parent who messaged us is from Douglas, as many parents now school choice to Shepherd Hill because they’re so good at producing D1 football players. Another parent is from Webster. I don’t know them personally, so I can’t comment on what happened. But I do know this – there is an epidemic at Shepherd Hill, and suburban schools in general, of out of control parents who think their kids are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I talk about it a lot in the book which is set for release next week, including experiences I had with parents like this.
I’m also with Shell Shocker about the kid running home to tell his mother what the coach said. Football is not like any other sport. I coached track and cross country at Shepherd Hill, and I never spoke to kids like this, even though I was kind of a hard ass at times. I coached 110 pound kids who liked to run. I don’t need to toughen them up because running every day does that already.
But football is different. It’s a violent sport where kids go to war. They have to be mentally and physically tough. It might’ve been awkward when my coach in high school asked if I was a cunt, but it scared the shit out of me. And you need to be a little scared when you play football, because the guy on the other team doesn’t care if he hurts your feelings.
If you’ve never played football before than you’ll never understand. That’s why it’s so ridiculous for Moms to get involved in this. Of course Mom is going to clutch her pearls when she hears that coach called her son a pussy. That’s her baby.
At Shepherd Hill, just like at many other schools, there is a climate where administrators fear 2 things – 1) angry parents, and 2) the media. Parents went to administrators all the time, often with ridiculous, baseless complaints, instead of addressing it with the coach first. When these parents ran to the superintendent first, they should’ve been told to go and speak with the coaching staff first to see if the dispute could be resolved. Instead they allowed this to happen. Shame on them, and shame on the parents.
I will say this – it’s pretty telling that these parents reached out to Turtleboy before they did to the newspaper of record in town. They just didn’t like the fact that we didn’t see an issue, so they ran to the Telegram and Gazette instead (their backup choice), knowing that the mainstream media is always eager to spit out some fake news.
As for the practicing in the mud the day after a loss, who cares? It’s football. If you don’t like 7 AM practices where the coach is pissed after a loss then join the golf team. Or cross country. When my kids had a bad race they went out and ran the next day anyway, because I could never hold running over their head as punishment. This is not a story. There’s expectations at Shepherd Hill, and for the first time in 10 years they have a losing record. Not coincidentally this is when the rats start jumping ship.
The only thing that wouldn’t be OK is making kids play when they’re injured, but I don’t see any evidence that this actually occurred, except for the word of a jilted parent.
Anyway, I’m sure there’s a lot more to this story, so if anyone who plays now, or has played for Coach Dugan before wants to talk with us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Facebook. If Abi answers tell her you want Shell Shocker or Uncle Turtleboy. Unlike the Telegram and Gazette we like to hear both sides of a story before jumping to conclusions and smearing a hard working and well liked coach.