Did 3-Time State Champion Lacrosse Coach Quit Or Get Fired?
School officials say Counts was not dismissed that she had resigned and then asked to be reinstated as coach.
But after an outpouring of support from current and former players, Counts is returning to Oakton High School, where she has led the girls’ lacrosse team to five state championship games, three of which were wins.
She said she met Tuesday with Oakton High Principal John Banbury and Student Activities Director Pat Full to get more information on why she could not return to coaching lacrosse. The meeting resulted in her being rehired for the position, she said.
“It’s been a bizarre change of events. May 2, I went to [Full] and told him this was my last year. I was just overwhelmed with stuff,” said Counts, a mother of six children ages 2 to 12.
“A week later I went back in and I said I’d made a mistake and wanted to keep my job.” Some miscommunication must have happened, Counts said, because on June 17 six days after leading her team to a second-place finish in the state tournament she was told she was being dismissed.
School officials say Counts was not dismissed, but would not comment further.
Counts said Oakton administrators initially told her she was being dismissed because of parent complaints about the direction she was taking the team. Later, she said, they told her she was not being dismissed but the school was just following through with her earlier resignation.
“They said, ‘You resigned and that’s it,’ cut and dry,” Counts said. “The funny thing about it is, it’s only a couple thousand dollars a year and you split that with your assistants. … I wanted to be there. It’s easy to walk away from something you don’t get a lot of money from, but I wanted to be there with these girls these specific girls.”
After 14 years with Oakton’s lacrosse team, Counts said it was not easy to heed the advice of friends and fellow coaches who said she could get another job coaching at a neighboring school.
“I love the sport tremendously, but I’m in it for the kids,” she said.
Former player Kayla Hoefer said, “I played for Jean for four years in two different sports [lacrosse and field hockey]. She was never just my coach. She was and remains to this day my mentor, role model and my inspiration.
“Her impact on her players goes far beyond their four years of high school or the games they won or lost,” Hoefer added. “She continues to support all of her girls long after they graduate.”
Because of Counts’ track record of success, Hoefer said she was surprised when she heard Counts would no longer be coaching lacrosse because of her impact on the team.
“She teaches her players about discipline, teamwork, community service, dedication and commitment, and how to apply these concepts into every area of their lives,” she said. “There is a reason she has won coach of the year so many times.
“I am telling you all of this because this behavior toward Coach Counts by Oakton High School is completely unacceptable. I am sure there are numerous inadequate excuses for her dismissal, but that is exactly what they are. The outpouring of support for Coach Counts is enormous,” she added.
Counts, who has coached a combined 28 seasons of lacrosse and field hockey at Oakton High School, said, “Usually when you’re unhappy with a coach it’s, ‘See you later. Sayonara.’ But I was told during that [June 17] meeting, ‘You’re more than welcome to come back for field hockey.’”
Of her reinstatement, she said, “I don’t think it’s just what I said. … I guess it’s really the wonderful supporters that I had come out from alumni to parents to current players.”