HIGH-SCHOOL

Spring Grove football coach Will Thompson steps down after one season

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Spring Grove Area High School's head football coach stepped down after a single season with the Rockets, on the same weekend that some parents and students called for his replacement.

William Thompson said he made the decision after the final game of the season Friday, Oct. 28, notifying the school that weekend. The decision, he said in an interview with The York Dispatch, had nothing to do with the petition organized around the same time. Instead, it came from a desire to spend more time with his family after a season of 30- to 40-hour weeks of coaching.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my kids," he said. "We went to an amusement park Saturday — that was the first time I spent a Saturday with my family in nearly four months."

Spring Grove's coach, Will Thompson at Media Day for the local high school football teams in York on August 2, 2022.

Spring Grove went 5-5 in Thompson's lone season, a step back from the Rockets' 10-2 record in 2021. The last-minute, 36-30 loss Oct. 28 at South Western dropped the team to 2-4 in York-Adams Division I and knocked it out of PIAA District 3 Class 5A playoff contention.

Shortly after Friday's game, an anonymous person started a petition to remove Thompson for the next season.

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“We are genuinely concerned about the impacts that Thompson’s coaching style has on the boys as well as the future of the program under his leadership,” read the petition, which is no longer online. As of Thursday, it had received about 700 signatures.

The petition's organizers, who did not respond to requests for comment, alleged that Thompson targeted his players with “bully-like behavior including mind games,” using fear and intimidation on the players. They also claimed players have suffered mental health issues and many players quit because of him. 

“Thompson displayed the worst behavior at (Friday night’s) game against South Western,” one anonymous commenter wrote. “It was absolutely unacceptable.”

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Multiple messages to players and family members who commented on the petition were not returned. School district officials also declined comment, saying it was a personnel matter.

Thompson declined to comment on the petition. He said it is the internet, where anyone can say and do what they want. He also said everything happens for a reason; he has no regrets about his time at Spring Grove and that his players know his heart was in the right place.

“I don’t have anything negative to say about parents or about kids," Thompson said. "All positives from my experience."

Thompson, a Virginia native, received a yearly stipend of $4,988 to replace Kyle Sprenkle, who also resigned to spend more time with his family. Before taking the job at Spring Grove, Thompson was the head coach at Francis Scott Key in Union Bridge, Maryland. There, he took his team to the second round of the playoffs in 2021 after nine straight losing seasons. During the 2020 season, he was selected as a Ravens Coach of the Week, which goes to two Maryland coaches each week who have impacted players off the field.

Head coach Will Thompson during football practice at Spring Grove Area High School in Jackson Township, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Ryan Stull, a Francis Scott Key student who played for Thompson in 2019 and 2020, commented on the petition that the coach “breathed football," was a good coach and molded successful young men, which was more important than football.

Jacob Parker, who played under Thompson’s direction from 2016 to 2018 at John Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia., when Thompson was a defensive coordinator, agreed. The coach showed up for Parker on and off the field.  

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On the field, Parker said Thompson was super passionate and very involved with the players. Off the field, he was “an in-touch coach.” The coach made sure the players did what they needed to do in the classroom and weren’t fooling around, he said. 

“I don’t think ... I would have probably gotten in the college that I ended up,” Parker said, explaining that Thompson kept him on the right track and he still goes to Thompson for advice.

"The fact that he stays in touch with me five years after we’ve been playing, he doesn’t get any benefit out of that," Parker said.

Parker signed his name on the petition only because it was a requirement to leave a comment.

“I didn't think it was … right that the comment section was littered only with people on one side,” he said, adding he signed it to leave a comment in favor of his coach. 

He is aware coaching styles are taken in different ways. He thinks in this case, Thompson was misunderstood. 

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“The way that people were talking about him and describing the kind of person and attacking the integrity and stuff of him is 100% almost the opposite of the man I know,” Parker said. 

“He’s fiery,” said Brian Lowery, who coached alongside Thompson in 2014. “I mean, he is an intense person, there’s no doubt about that.”

Thompson said he was proud of what Spring Grove accomplished this year, not only on the field but in the classroom. He did weekly grade checks and progress reports.

“Out of 55 kids, we didn’t have one kid ineligible all year,” Thompson said, adding they didn’t have to discipline a player. 

Thompson said he won't close the door to coaching again in the future. But for now, he plans to move forward, focusing on his family and "good things."

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

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Editor's note: A previous version of this story referenced a comment on the petition claiming Thompson was "very unsportsmanlike" and refused to let players shake hands after a game. The comment was misattributed to Jim Jones, who had replied to the comment in support of Thompson. It has been removed from the story.