Joseph E. Cottom Jr.: Penn Hills athletes show courage & passion

November 9, 2018

Editor’s note: This letter is in response to an open letter written by Kelsey Lydic, a senior captain of the Penn Hills girls volleyball team, about the team’s forfeit to Connellsville Oct. 17.

Dear Miss Lydic,

Thank you for having the courage to stand up for yourselves and your teammates. It is important as an individual to be compassionate for others. I applaud that your team could eschew the pressure of athletics to succeed at all costs. The whole point of high school and amateur athletics is to help all young people involved to become well-rounded individuals. Your team has embodied the spirit of high school athletics.

I am a 1993 graduate of Connellsville Area High School. I lettered in varsity track and football. I am proud to call myself a Falcon. I have not lived in the Connellsville area since 2000, but I still have family who live within the Connellsville Area School District.

I want to apologize for the actions of the few people who may have uttered slurs or derogatory remarks. That is not the Connellsville community. We are prideful people who are passionate about not only sports, but our community as well.

It sickens me that the actions of a few can blemish a wonderful place. Connellsville is steeped in history. It was a backbone to the steel industry that helped build Western Pennsylvania. It is the birthplace of the founder of Clark County, Nev., a gold medalist in the 1936 Olympics and a Heisman Trophy winner. The area is a wonderful place full of honest, hard-working people.

Please do not let the actions of insensitive individuals besmirch this area. I also want to apologize for armed guards accompanying the teams. There is no doubt that administration had a reason for sending these guards. I am not aware of the reasoning, but this type of action should not accompany a high school sporting event.

I am a lifelong athlete. My competitive athletic career has long since ended, but I have been coaching amateur athletics for 22 years. I have coached youth basketball and baseball and junior varsity basketball, softball and football, and am the head varsity softball coach for Washington and Lee High School in Montross, Va.

I would welcome my young ladies to make the same decision that you and your teammates made. You need to be passionate about your sport and your teammates. It is obvious that you and your teammates are mature enough to forfeit a game for your principles. Many adults would not have been able to come to that decision.

I wish you and your team well for the rest of your academic and athletic careers. You all will be successful because of your courage and ability to communicate with others.

Again, I want to apologize for the actions of a few people who attended the game in which the derogatory remarks were uttered. Those individuals do not represent the Connellsville community. It is a community that is hardworking, honest and accepting.


John E. Cottom Jr.

Connellsville Area High School, Class of 1993

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