By: Sabrina Bedford
Garth Gittens, head coach of the women’s soccer team, was relieved of his duties after 17 years at the college, the Algonquin Times has learned.
Gittens met with Ron Port, administrator of athletic operations, early Dec. 3 where he learned the department has decided to take the team in a different direction – without him as coach.
The meeting lasted nine minutes.
In an email, Port described the decision as mostly personal, adding “it is a matter between Garth and I. [There was] a discrepancy in how things were handled between me – the athletic director responsible for the program – and the coach.”
He did not specify what this discrepancy was.
In his time as head coach, Gittens led his teams to nine championship medals (one gold, six silver and two bronze), and has never placed below second in the regular season. He also recently won east region coach of the year for the 2011-2012 season.
He said that after 17 years at Algonquin, he is in a state of shock and disbelief.
“He [Port] said they want to take the program in another direction,” said Gittens. “I asked what that meant but was not given any answer.”
When he asked Port for a full written explanation in the form of an email, he was told there would be no email and no further reason given.
“It really is all about moving in a new direction after 17 years,” said Port. “I thanked him for his contributions and congratulated him on both his personal successes as well as the teams over this period.”
Gittens remains unclear of the motivation behind the decision.
“I push hard to make sure the female student athletes at the college in the soccer program are treated equal as the men’s programs,” said Gittens, adding this is something he feels is the right thing to do.
The news of Gittens’ firing prompted emotional responses from his former players as well as many community members around the country.
Chelsea McLean, former captain of the women’s soccer team and Algonquin graduate, has played soccer since the age of five. For the last four years, she played for Gittens on the varsity team and said it was his commitment both on and off the field that set him apart.
“Garth surpasses his duties as a head coach,” she said in an email to college administration. “He doesn’t have to open his home on numerous occasions for team dinners, but he does. He isn’t obliged to know my family and my teammate’s families all by name, but he does, and he never hesitates to talk to them and ask how they are all doing. … It is all these things and more, that make Garth the best coach I have ever had or known.”
Jack Doyle, general manager of the Algonquin Students’ Association, emailed Gittens the afternoon of Dec. 6 advising him the decision is final, adding he supports Port’s decision to take the team in another direction. Port will begin searching for a different coach in the new year.