Ray Duckler: Let Pembroke's Pat Welch be an example: Choose your words carefully

By RAY DUCKLER Monitor staff
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
(Published in print: Tuesday, March 25, 2014)

For the past few years, Pat Welch, a star basketball player at Pembroke Academy, has been giving tips to young players eager to learn from the best.

And now, after officials stripped him of an award and banned him from two all-star games because of a tweet, Welch is teaching kids lessons off the court as well.

It’s difficult to say that Welch got what he deserved Saturday, when the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization punished him for aiming the F-word at Portsmouth High, the team Pembroke beat recently for the state title.

But Welch left state officials no choice.

In a world of twitter and texts, of emails and Facebook, everything is now on the record.

And that includes something tweeted that in no way reflects the character of the tweeter.

In this case, Welch.

He’s beloved in the town’s sports community, known as a kid with a quick smile and unselfish nature. He’s a role model and a volunteer, and my meeting with him yesterday at a friend’s home in Epsom reinforced all that I had heard about him.

My friend’s son, 13-year-old Noah Cummings, admires Welch and sat at the dining room table during my interview.

“I want people to know that I’m really sorry about what I said,” Welch told me. “This is a learning experience. It’s something that will never happen again. For kids who look up to me, think about your words before you put them out there.”

He put the words out there shortly after his Spartans beat Portsmouth, 49-40, on March 15 to win their second-straight Division II championship.

Walking to the bus in the parking lot at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, Welch tweeted:

“Shout out to Portsmouth, you may have won in the regular season. . . . But we won the ship you suck #----yourself.”

Welch made no excuses, saying, “What happens in the game should stay in the game. We had won back-to-back championships and I was emotional.”

He’s since paid for that emotion.

Welch’s words were quickly re-tweeted, with messages calling him classless, he said. “I deleted it after 10 minutes,” Welch said. “I regretted sending it because I knew it was wrong.”

From there, events transpired like a Welch-led fast break. Four days after the title game, Welch was named Division II Player of the Year for the second-straight season.

The next day, last Thursday, Pembroke Athletic Director Suzanne Klink and Headmaster Mike Reardon called Welch in for a meeting.

They had heard about the tweet and wanted an apology, so Welch wrote one and the three drove to Portsmouth to hand-deliver it.

Portsmouth Athletic Director Russ Wilson, speaking to my friend Dave Cummings of Epsom, said, “We were very satisfied with the apology. It was very sincere, and we appreciated that they took two or three hours out of their day to make the trip.”

Further, Portsmouth basketball Coach Jim Mulvey told Cummings that he “was saddened” that the coaches organization took the award away from Welch.

Cummings set up my meeting with Welch. He wanted me to hear the other side of the story, the one about Welch’s volunteer work with the Granite State Raiders, an Amateur Athletic Union team coached by Pembroke Coach Matt Alosa and his father, Frank Alosa.

He wanted me to know that Welch played with the Pembroke Unified Volleyball Team, a program that mixes students with and without special needs.

And he wanted me to know what Welch has meant to his son, Noah, who one day hopes to follow his idol and play for Pembroke Academy.

Welch has been guiding Noah for five years.

“Pat made me love basketball,” Noah said. “He introduced me to the Raiders.”

That doesn’t mean Noah wasn’t surprised and disappointed when he read Welch’s tweet. “At that moment I didn’t know why he would do that,” Noah said. “I knew it was the heat of the moment, but I thought it was inexcusable.”

And it was, to the point that something drastic needed to be done.

Matt Alosa said there was no justification for Welch’s behavior, but he disagreed with the punishment, saying, “I don’t think you take away a player’s body of work for the whole year because he swore on Twitter.”

Alosa added that the Player of the Year award is based on what a player does on the court and nothing else. Sportsmanship, Alosa said, is part of Gatorade’s Mr. Basketball award.

“Technically, this award has zero to do with what happened with that tweet,” Alosa said. “It has to do with your basketball performance as the best player in our division.”

But I suspect that those like myself, who say any award connected to scholastic sports must include sportsmanship, feel Welch’s tweet made a hard decision for state officials a little easier.

These days, everyone is listening. Tweet the F-word, suffer the consequences, and that’s what Gary Noyes, president of the coaches association, felt as well.

“This award is not based solely on a basketball player’s ability,” Noyes said in his statement released Saturday, “but also on that player’s character and demonstrated sportsmanship.”

Noah said he forgives Welch, because Welch’s apology carried more weight than his mistake.

For his part, Alosa said he’ll do his best to make sure this never happens again.

“With team rules there are always consequences,” Alosa said, “and I’m going to make a statement to the kids next season that you’re not allowed to tweet except the score of the game.”

Welch, who will prepare for college ball with a season at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., also believes his punishment was too harsh.

But he’s privy to the impact it might have had on kids who idolize him.

Like Noah Cummings.

“That’s the worst part of it,” Welch said. “I don’t know if it changed their opinion about me, but I hope not. I’m really sorry I did it.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments 14

The author left out that the player in question was suspended by the NHIAA for 1 game for intentional & flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct this season. More than one school supplied the NHIAA and Pembroke with video of the player in question intentionally trying to hurt opposing players. The program was assessed technical fouls prior to the start of a game for intentionally dunking in warm ups before a game. There is a clear issue with the culture of the basketball program at Pembroke and it just might start at the top.

"An eighteen year old with no other discipline issues admits to using profanity and has an achievement award stripped from him by a governing board of composed of adults? Yet a high hockey coach who is arrested for DWI, keeps his position and gets elected to the the NH hockey hall of fame? What's the lesson here? " I couldn't agree with you more James.....maybe the NH Basketball Coaches Organization should be governing the hockey coaches organization....clearly they have a higher standard they hold players and coaches to.

Whoa, McNellie. Wait just a minute here. Pat Welch didn't simply "admit to" using profanity. He put it out there on the World Wide Web. Once done, it doesn't much matter what Pat did or didn't admit to. The deed was done, and it couldn't go ignored. I applaud the NHBCO for their expedience of discipline here. Our youth needs to be held accountable for any/all immature and irreverent whims launched via social media. Such malicious missives can do lasting harm. They are not merely a harmless joke.

Again, an apples vs oranges comparison. The hockey coach & his DWI have nothing to do with the poor judgment Pat Welch exhibited via his obscene tweet. Casey Anthony, OJ Simpson, Lizzie Borden, all shouldn't have walked perhaps, but that doesn't mean Pat Welch gets away with the height of poor sportsmanship. Your pretzel logic doesn't cut it here.

An eighteen year old with no other discipline issues admits to using profanity and has an achievement award stripped from him by a governing board of composed of adults? Yet a high hockey coach who is arrested for DWI, keeps his position and gets elected to the the NH hockey hall of fame? What's the lesson here?

I am always shocked at the things I read about in regards to our schools. It pretty much gives me the message that a lot of folks connected to running our schools have no common sense and are major hypocrites. I read the story about the 9 year old girl that was suspended because she shaved her head to support her BF that was going through chemo for cancer. School said that was against the dress code. So their thinking is that a dress code trumps a nice kid supporting her friend. These are the same folks who believe that they need to be parents to their students.

Should Pat Welch get a 'bye' here in your estimation, James? Electronic social media isn't the world I grew up in, and perhaps was not yours either, but looks like it's here to stay. There has to be some accountability for his misdeed, so what would you suggest? Pat will survive this punishment, and the message sent is a good one. Otherwise, I think the hockey coach/DWI analogy is less than parallel. Besides, two wrongs don't make a right.

A very sad and tragic affair, but can't say the punishment didn't fit the crime. Would've been much worse to ignore it, and where's the middle ground? Be a long time before another kid makes same mistake. That said, I do feel badly for Patrick Welch and the Pembroke Spartans. They had a great year, which deserved a happier ending.

Ray Duckler wrote: ".....And that includes something tweeted that in no way reflects the character of the tweeter. In this case, Welch." Sorry Ray, but I believe you're missing the point, that tweet is his character. He wrote it, he hit send, it is his, he owns it. It appears as though he was being a sore loser from an early season game and now he's being a sore winner. He may also be Mr. Wonderful but please don't tell us the tweet "in no way reflects the character of the tweeter"

Congrats to the Coaches Organization for their decision!!!!! Does anyone love a sore winner, (besides Matt Alosa and his father)? What a telling tweet that was, so easy to kick someone while they're down... and, so easy to apologize after the fact. If one is taught correctly, it is actually easier to be magnanimous in victory, it opens more doors, leads to future partnerships with former rivals and shows true leadership quality. It appears that this boy missed out on a few very important lessons while learning to put a ball through a net. Oh well, another banner year for the coaching staff. Hopefully, this lesson serves this young man well.

I personally think the punishment was too harsh. This kid took the post down after 10 minutes as he had the realization that it was wrong. He gets no credit for that or his history of work he does with groups. That to me tells me he is a good kid who made a mistake based on emotion at the time. Quite a bit different than a kid that does something like this and does not own up to it, but instead makes excuses. He caught it too late, once you put it on the web, there are folks who will use it against you. Especially if they do not like you. A lesson learned.

I think the punishment was too harsh, after all didn't Representative Tasker set an example for him.

Shouldn't an athlete's first response to winning a big game be to thank family, friends, teammates, coaches, community...? Why would the thought of attacking the opponent, using the most vulgar of language even enter into his mind? That is learned behavior coming from someone close to him. His parents, coaches, school, and community ought to take a good, hard look at where the roots of such terrible behavior come from. Great leaders lead by example, and someone is not providing good leadership here.

High School is for learning. It appears the lessons continue for this big fish in a very small pond. His coach has lessons to learn as well.

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