During her passionate 20-minute plea to save her job as Platteville High School’s head volleyball coach at last Wednesday’s school board meeting, Yvette Updike told the board that she believed a group of parents undermined her ability to coach and that the administration did not address her concerns with those parents.
In a letter to Updike, obtained by The Journal, dated Nov. 25, Platteville Public Schools superintendent Connie Valenza listed the second of three reasons for the coach’s non-renewal as Updike’s past and continued “negative interactions with parents after being warned.”
Updike said that to her knowledge there was no previous “warning” about “negative interactions with parents.”
“I strongly believe I have been targeted for the past five years by one parent, who has continuously questioned the offense, defense, conditioning, open gyms, and leagues and everything else surrounding the Platteville volleyball program,” said Updike.
“I feel I have gone to the administration any time a specific parent made negative comments about me and/or the Platteville volleyball program. The administration has not addressed any of my concerns with this parent.”
The Journal attempted to contract three team parents; none returned phone calls.
Updike said it was brought to her attention that a few of her players, not the entire team, were going to Saint Mary’s Gym not only on days of our practices, days of contests, but also on Sundays to work with another parent. “I feel this was an undermining gesture towards my ability as a coach,” she said.
Updike claimed the parent running these unofficial practices/open gyms, without her knowledge, handed out a “Volleyball Permission Form” which stated, “my daughter ______ has permission to participate in volleyball activities at the Saint Mary’s Gym in Platteville. I have communicated with Yvette Updike Head Volleyball Coach at Platteville High School and she has no objections to my daughter participating in volleyball activities at the Saint Mary’s Gym.”
Updike did not approve these volleyball activities or the permission form. Updike says she only became aware of these activities late in the season and was fearful of a possible Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules violation.
“There is nothing that prevents a parent from holding private gym practices with select members of a team,” said Valenza. “WIAA only regulates in-season competition. A student could be going to a private trainer, practicing with a neighbor who used to coach ... and on and on.
“There are no repercussions for a parent in this situation as they have not done anything in violation of WIAA. I may not like it, the coach may not like it, I may not recommend it. It is a difficult situation for students to be in. There is nothing the district or the coach can do to prevent it.”
Most recently Updike received a text message from this same parent immediately following Platteville’s state tournament loss to Waukesha Catholic Memorial on Nov. 7, which stated, “If you let these girls alone in the summer they would be passing on a dime! You won’t be interfering next summer I promise you.”
Updike said on another occasion, at the directive of a parent, she was asked to change the stats of two players. She did not follow the parent’s wishes.
Updike said a different parent requested that she move a sophomore up to the varsity team. She says, “on three different occasions during the past summer, I was approached by this same parent regarding their daughter being on varsity. I notified the administration on these occasions and received no acknowledgement or response.”
Updike also referred to an email exchange between herself and another parent during the offseason in which this parent stated that another parent is, “definitely in his/her own little world ... he/she is just up to no good ... if one way doesn’t work he/she will try again.”
“This again was one of the numerous pieces of evidence I took to the administration regarding this parent who has been attacking me and been extremely negative towards the volleyball program for many years,” said Updike. “Mrs. Valenza stated, ‘this ‘was a negative interaction with parents.’
“How is this viewed as a negative interaction with a parent?” said Updike. “When in-season this same parent stated, ‘congrats coach on a fun and successful season.’”
On Sept. 29 Updike had a conversation with a player that was frustrated with herself and stated it had nothing to do with anyone on the team or the coach. The player told Updike that she was just in a slump and asked the coach not to give up on her.
On Oct. 20 the same athlete and Updike had a conversation in practice. “She thanked me for believing in her and never giving up on her,” said Updike. “Yet her parent was quoted in The Platteville Journal calling the season, ‘not a positive one for my daughter.’”
A different player gave Updike a thank you card at the end of the season which stated, “I just want to thank you for everything!” and “...to believing in me the whole time!” and “Volleyball is always a great time, and I would not be where I am today without you!” But according to Updike, this player’s parent wrote in a complaint letter to Mrs. Valenza, “I could not imagine putting another daughter in these types of situations.”
In Valenza’s Nov. 25 letter to Updike, the first listed reason for non-renewal stated, “You have violated WIAA rules in the past, and I believe that you continued, even after being warned, related to off-season coaching contact.”
Updike has an email correspondence with former PHS Activities Director Al Minter to Valenza, dated May 23, that read, “I hate to admit it but I have checked the video a couple of times to see what was taking place at the open gyms. What I have seen is Yvette getting the net and balls out of storage, the girls setting up two courts and Yvette either sitting on a chair or taking walks in the hallway. Again these are appropriate and expected behaviors of a coach running an open gym ... Perhaps it is time to stop hiding behind emails and secret meetings and sit down and have an honest conversation about the real issues surrounding this program.”
Updike added “Another former administrator shared with me last spring, ‘that Mrs. Valenza has been listening to this group of parents and she is not in your corner.”
“I take great pride in the volleyball program I have built here in Platteville,” said Updike. “I care about every athlete who has ever participated in the volleyball program. I enjoy watching and developing these athletes into not only volleyball players, but successful young women.”
In her seven seasons a Platteville head coach, Updike led the Hillmen to a record of 183–81–12, including a 40–6 record and a share of the SWC title this fall. She has a career record of 298–151–22, which includes six seasons at Fennimore from 1999 to 2005.