Parents ‘disappointed’ after Garner football coach refused to shake hands after loss

Some parents are speaking out about the way the Garner High School’s head football coach handled himself after the Trojans lost to rival Clayton High Friday night.

Tasha Simpson, parent of a senior player, said she isn’t upset about the 49-0 loss, but how Coach Thurman Leach responded to the defeat and then to concerned parents.

“That was a huge disappointment,” she said. “I expected more of him.”

After the game ended, Leach refused to participate in the traditional post-game handshakes between the teams. In an interview, Leach said he was upset after the Clayton coach continued to run up the score after the win was clearly established.

“In my opinion, he tried to embarrass my young men,” Leach said.

Friday was the first time Leach refused to shake hands after a game, he said.

The News & Observer emailed coach Clayton Coach Scott Chadwick, but he didn’t immediately respond. The News & Observer also emailed Garner High principal Matt Price and Wake County Public Schools System spokesperson Michael Yarbrough.

Neither responded by 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The parents were upset about Leach refusing the handshake, so they yelled at their sons to do it anyway, Simpson said. Leach instructed the players not to.

Simpson said she and other parents were bothered that the coach put players in the compromising position of choosing to listen to him or them. Simpson said she was also worried about safety and how the home team might react to the snub.

Leach, who said he believes the situation is being blown out of proportion, felt like it was his decision to make, he said.

“I felt like I am the head of this program, and I am representative of the program,” Leach said.

After the game, a group of parents confronted Leach as he walked to the bus. Simpson posted a 1:37 minute clip of the conversation on the Parents of Garner Magnet High Students Facebook group and expressed disappointment in the coach.

“As a parent, I have never been so disappointed in the lack of leadership, bad character, terrible sportsmanship than I have seen tonight during the football game with the head football coach,” she wrote.

In the video, Leach started to explain to the parents his reasoning. The parents yelled at him that it was “just football” and “It’s poor coaching, that is what it is,” along with other comments.

“I tried to tell them I did this for the integrity of this team,” Leach said.

Leach started to walk away, but as the criticism continued he walked toward the parents as a group of men, possibly other coaches, got in between Leach and the parents.

“You don’t tell me what to do,” Leach said as he started to walk towards the parents as other men stepped in front of him and walked him away from the parents. “You don’t tell me what to do.”

Leach said that he turned around after he heard one of the parents say something about not wanting the coach to punish a kid for listening to his parent. Leach said the comment took a shot at his character.

“I never have in my life unjustly disciplined a kid,” Leach said.

Other parents expressed concerns similar to Simpson through comments on the post, and some even called for the coach to be fired.

Others, however, stood up for the Leach, who has been with the Trojan’s program for three decades.

Simpson isn’t advocating for Leach to be fired, she said, but he needs to own up to his mistakes if he going to be in a leadership role in a program that is shaping young minds and attitudes.

“He needs to own up to it and change the behavior,” she said.

Leach joined the coaching staff in 1990 and stepped into the head coach position in January 2013, The News & Observer reported.

In March, a Garner coach was suspended while a school officials investigated a student complaint about a statement from the coach, The News & Observer reported. The school didn’t release the name of the coach.

Leach said it wasn’t him.