COLUMBIANA - Another head coach is under scrutiny in the city school district.
Wendy and Kevin Pancake approached the board of education this week with concerns about varsity girls basketball head coach Ron Moschella and the teams' Sunday practices.
Until recently their daughter played on the team but opted to quit, they said.
"I can't force my belief on other people, but seven days a week, they are overwhelmed," Mrs. Pancake said.
She added that while Moschella has "done a great job" as coach she believes the athletes are being pushed too far and losing opportunities to study and "just be a kid."
Several times during the meeting the Pancakes said they are displeased with the "mandatory" Sunday practices, although Superintendent Don Mook and Moschella later stated those practices are not mandatory, and never have been.
Board member Tony Roncone, whose daughter plays on the team, also said during the meeting that it was his understanding the Sunday practices were not mandatory.
The Pancakes claimed they were not making a fuss because their daughter is no longer on the team, but were more worried about a precedent being set that would force all students participating in extra-curricular activities to be involved seven days a week with no time to be a child, spend a day with their family or keep up with their studies.
Mrs. Pancake went on to say that their family has always made it a point not to allow their children to participate in sports or events on Sundays. Her daughter approached Moschella about the Sunday practices, but he continued with them anyway, she said.
As a result, her daughter fell behind because she was not present to go over the new plays with the team on Sundays, she added.
Moschella was not at the board meeting, but when contacted later said he was already aware of their concerns and had met with them prior to the meeting and believed that the issue had been laid to rest.
Mook, whose sophomore daughter Baylie participates on the team, also said he was aware the coach had met with the Pancakes.
Both men said they would never "hold it against" any athlete that opts not to participate in voluntary Sunday practices for any sport or extra-curricular activity.
"For the board and myself, we have never advocated mandatory (Sunday) practices for athletics or extra-curricular activities ... we absolutely, positively respect anybody in any faith and would never punish them for not participating," Mook said.
As for the Pancakes' request that a policy be put in place to prohibit Sunday practices, Mook said it can't be done.
He and Moschella pointed out that girls' basketball games in the Inter Tri-County League (ITCL) are held on Mondays and Thursdays while boys' games are held on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Mook said coaches should be able to have the option to hold voluntary practices on Sundays for athletes wanting to brush up on their skills before a game the next day.
He and Moschella also pointed out that fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade ITCL basketball games are always held on Sundays. Mook said that Sunday practices will "never" be mandatory for the upper grades, however.
From a parent standpoint he said that he typically plays sports with his kids on Sundays, although he understands why some families may choose not to do that.
"At no point are we trying to minimize anybody's family beliefs," he said.
As for Moschella, Mook said, "I feel fortunate enough in this case I have a coach willing to work with my child."
The board hired Moschella in April, upon Mook's recommendation. Moschella had just stepped down from a 31-year coaching career in Boardman a few months prior. While there, he led the Spartans to 546 wins, making him one of the winningest girls basketball coaches in Ohio history.
He also led the Spartans to 19 Steel Valley Conference championships and Federal League titles in 2004 and 2005 and was recognized as Northeastern Ohio coach of the year five times, the Mahoning County Basketball Coaches Association coach of the year 23 times and was named the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association coach of the year in 2001.
Between 1991 and 2011, he led teams that captured 14 district championships, reached the regional final five times and qualified for the Division I state finals in 2005 and 2008.
The coach did not wish to respond to the Pancakes' claims that his conduct on the court is not always appropriate.
Staff Writer Deanne Johnson contributed to this report.