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Head Coach, Assistant Resign Over Food-Shaming Incident

Paul Steinbach
Ponte Vedra Sharks Logo

The head coach and an assistant coach of the Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High School girls’ lacrosse team resigned after being suspended for one game for berating the team for eating cake following a game, the St. Johns County School District confirmed Wednesday.

The resignations come just before the end of their season.

WJXT in Jacksonville obtained the message that Ponte Vedra High athletic director Michael Harrison sent out Tuesday.

“I wanted to touch base with each of you regarding the events that came to light from this past weekend and current status of the girls lacrosse program," the letter reads in part. "[The coach] and her staff have decided it is in the best interest for them and the program that they resign. This resignation is effective immediately.” 

The coach, who WJXT did not name because she is no longer with the team, sent the independent television station a response, saying, “I wanted to confirm with you and Mike Harrison that not only did my coaching staff not ‘berate’ players, I and my fellow coach resigned on our own accord but only after Mike requested that I continue coaching. We love our players and empower them to be strong women.”

A viewer who alerted WJXT on Tuesday night to what happened described the incident as “food shaming,” which can include comments about the type of food you’re eating or “can also be defined as commentary about the quality of the food, calorie/fat/carb counts or just examining portion sizes,” according to Cleveland Clinic.

WJXT's Marilyn Parker spoke with Kelsey Pontius, a registered dietitian who specializes in working with athletes. She said it’s easy to overthink the mental and emotional part of nutrition that plays a role in an athlete’s wellbeing.

“Certainly a piece of cake after playing is not going to be detrimental in terms of a player’s recovery or anything. Certainly, there are things that might be a little bit more strategic at higher levels, where you’re expecting more out of yourself that you want would want to be choosing over the cake,” Pontius said. “But the cake itself is not the reason why maybe the next game didn’t go well. There’s no one food or no one food choice that is going to severely jeopardize somebody’s health or performance.”

The message from the athletic director went on to say the team goals have not changed, saying the players “still want to return to the final four and bring home a title.” Playoffs start next week for the team, as Ponte Vedra hosts the district tournament.

The team won its game Wednesday, 17-3.

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