Despite a petition signed by more than 1,300 people and multiple interviews with local news media, Jacob Grout’s campaign to return to coaching boys’ hockey has been met with silence from Harwood Union High School administrators.
The popular alumnus and former Highlander hockey player was fired two weeks ago from his position as head coach that he held since 2019 when he joined the school’s athletic staff. He last year led the team to the Division II state championship, the first boys’ hockey title Harwood has won in 15 years.
But his tenure was cut short when a message Grout sent to team members prompted a complaint to school administrators. The message contained profanity and complained to players about parent interference with coaching decisions.
In interviews with the media, Grout expressed regret for his coarse and unprofessional message. He also unequivocally expressed a desire to return to coaching the team if the school would reconsider its decision.
“This is like if you lost your kid – you fight to get them back,” said Grout.
Grout said the words, in his message that got him fired, were meant to motivate the team. He also said he had been frustrated with players' attendance at earlier practices where some were late or absent, and he wanted to get the group on track as the season started. In retrospect, he acknowledged it was inappropriate.
"My delivery was way off. I can't apologize for that enough," Grout said. "But I feel like my message was pure.”
Harwood school officials so far have been tight-lipped, pointing out that the situation is a personnel matter that they cannot discuss publicly. “Again, we are unable to respond with our thinking given that this is in fact an employee matter,” they wrote.
Superintendent Nease took the same tack in responding to a query about Grout’s status. “Regarding the termination of the hockey coach, all I can say is that this is a matter of personnel, therefore confidential and we have no further comment,” she said.
Grout said he was unsure of his next steps and offered a sentiment that echoes the community petition: “The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”
This article was reprinted courtesy of the Waterbury Roundabout and condensed for space by The Valley Reporter. Read the entire article and the text of his message to his team at: Waterbury Roundabout