To the Editor:

Does anyone know who Wilton High School‘s soccer field is named after? Anyone? Oh that’s right, Kristine Lilly. One of the best, if not THE best, women’s soccer players in U.S. history played soccer for our high school, but who would ever have known that given the current state of the program?

I have experienced the unfortunate pleasure of playing on the Wilton High School Girls Varsity Soccer Team for four years, serving as co-captain in the fall of 2013 during my senior year. During that time, I endured four coaches and two athletic directors. I left this program in 2014 to play Division I soccer at Dartmouth College feeling satisfied that the program had finally made it out of the weeds and was headed in a positive direction. We finally had a highly qualified coach in John Salvatore. Under his guidance, we made it all the way to the FCIAC finals for the first time in many, many years and lost by a single goal on a highly disputed call. For his efforts, John was named MSG Varsity Coach of the Year. We finally seemed to rise above our well-documented history of horrible coaches.

Or so I thought.

Almost three years later, I am appalled and embarrassed to say I ever played soccer at Wilton High School. I honestly believed I’d experienced the absolute worst that this program had to offer (e.g., one coach who was suspended for suspected inappropriate sexual relations with a player only to be reinstated and subsequently fired for physically assaulting another player in front of me and my teammates, and another coach who had us play leap frog with 9-year old girls on her U-10 travel team the day before our first FCIAC tournament game). You can imagine, then, how saddened and frustrated I am that things haven’t seemed to improve in the slightest. I also thought I’d outlasted one athletic director who was past his expiration date while I was still in Miller-Driscoll, yet I should’ve known things would only get worse after having to experience the first year under Wilton High’s newest edition of incapable athletic directors.

Officially, coach Salvatore resigned to “spend more time with his family.” Unofficially, rumor had it that the new athletic director forced him out because he felt the camps that coach Salvatore’s Soccer Extreme club ran were somehow a conflict of interest with the high school soccer program. Whether or not that’s true, there’s no disputing the fact that the new athletic director completely bungled the hiring process for a new coach by passing over the team’s unbelievably qualified assistant coach, who helped coach the team for two of its most successful years in recent history and was universally well liked and respected by the players.

Despite two successful and drama-free seasons, the new athletic director decided, in his infinite wisdom, to hire yet another coach whose questionable decisions and temperament led to even more strife within the program. And what do you know? That coach is gone now, too! So, yes, another Wilton Varsity Girl’s Soccer coach bites the dust, upping the tally to five coaches in six years and, incredibly, many people are pointing the finger at the parents! No! The blame for this debacle falls squarely on the shoulders of the athletic director. You can’t blame the parents. They’ve watched this program and the athletic department continue to embarrass itself for years now, and they’ve had to witness their daughters suffer from abusive, incompetent, and unqualified coaches and athletic directors. They’ve also witnessed the blatant favoritism the current athletic director shows to the almighty football team. I was appalled when he skipped a crucial game of ours against Ridgefield to attend a football scrimmage instead, walked right past my good friend and fellow co-captain who was on crutches shortly after she tore her ACL without bothering to even ask what had happened to her, and banned pre-warm-up music at our soccer games (although the boys football team faced no such restrictions), to name just a few of the slights that we endured.

Enough is enough. I applaud the parents who had the gumption to stand up and speak their minds. While I (thankfully) no longer have to experience the circus that is this program, I am left to wonder whether the Wilton High School Athletic Department has enough self-awareness to realize they are the laughing stock of this town and the source of an untold amount of frustration and agita for so many talented female athletes.

I can honestly say playing for the girl’s Varsity soccer team was the worst experience of my life, and I can only hope that no other teenage girl will ever have to endure the anguish I experienced playing for this program. Given what I went through and is apparently still going on, I say to the parents:  Keep complaining and keep fighting. Don’t be satisfied with the incompetence of the few individuals in charge, and don’t allow a once legendary program to continue down this path of embarrassment and ridicule. Don’t let Kristine Lilly’s memory be tarnished by this ludicrous charade that the athletic department has put on and most importantly, continue to demand the best for your daughters.

Finally, to end my tirade and to hopefully put to rest the anger that I’ve harbored for way too long, I have a message for the current athletic director:  Do your job. Your first priority should be to ALL of Wilton High School’s student athletes, not just the male variety and not just those that play football. I seriously doubt that you would have ever passed over a well-liked, highly respected assistant football coach for the head position if he had been part of the staff that successfully coached the squad to the FCIAC finals. Every sport at Wilton High School is equally deserving of your attention, so treat them as such.

Lindsay Knutson
WHS Class of 2014

One reply on “Former WHS Soccer Player: ‘I Applaud Parents Who Stand Up to Athletic Director’”

  1. The writer brings up some valid points, and for the most part expresses herself well. However, saying things like “I can honestly say playing for the girl’s [sic] Varsity soccer team was the worst experience of my life” take away from the intended message. If that truly was the worst experience of Ms. Knutson’s life, she has led a very fortunate life! I hope she is not really “appalled and embarrassed to say I ever played soccer at Wilton”, as the program apparently at least helped her succeed in some way, since she plays D1 soccer at a well-respected college. Whether or not someone agrees with Ms. Knutson’s position on the A.D. or the soccer program in general- both of which seem to have serious issues- we all could benefit from more rational discussion of problems with actual facts, and less wild statements and “rumor has it” commentary from people on all sides.

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