CHATHAM, NJ - Highly successful Chatham High swim coach Frank DiGiacomo was informed on July 23 by CHS Principal Darren Groh that he would not be rehired for the upcoming school year because of his lenient attendance policies.
In his eight years as the boys and girls swimming coach, DiGiacomo has guided the Chatham girls to four state championships, two state runner-up finishes, eight Morris County championships and seven state sectional championships. He also coached the boys to one state sectional title.
"I was told 'We're letting you go because of your attendance policy'," DiGiacomo told TAPinto Chatham. "My policy is that you're on my team until you tell me that you quit. If you don't show up for practice, you're not going to swim in meets. I didn't think that any of my swimmers were signing up to get a gym exemption. That was a new experience for me. There couldn't have been more than one or two who signed up for the exemption and didn't show up.
"In my 15 years of coaching high school swimming, I only had one kid who came up to me and told me they were quitting. If they had told me to change my attendance policy, I would have changed it the next day."
Senior Sara Barrett, captain of the 2020-'21 CHS team, is part of a group of swimmers and parents trying to reverse the decision with 600-plus signatures on a petition and testimonials on behalf of DiGiacomo.
"Coach DiGiacomo’s contributions to the Chatham Swim Team are obvious," Barrett said. "To quote our petition, “During his eight years at CHS, Coach D led the Girls Team to 4 State titles (in six appearances), 7 Sectional titles (in eight appearances), and 8 County titles, while also reaching and surpassing a 100-meet winning streak. Coach D also led the Boys Team to a Sectional title and County title and was named the 2013 NJSCA State Coach of the Year. Clearly, Coach D has coached one of, if not the, most successful teams at Chatham High School.” Understandably, the administration's decision to terminate the coach who has undoubtedly produced the best record for any team at Chatham High School, was confusing to pretty much everyone who received the news.
"While the success on paper is impressive, what the Chatham community is truly losing as a result of this decision is a leader who has made an incredible impact on every single student he interacted with. I could go into great detail about the overwhelmingly inclusive and positive environment that he fosters, but I think the alumni, parents, coaches, and other members of the Chatham community and broader swimming community said it best in the comments they left on our petition. Me, my teammates, and these 600+ others who signed the petition believe that the “attendance issue” that was deemed to be the motive for Coach DiGiacomo’s termination is completely repairable not a just reason for an incredible coach to be fired."
The petition to rehired DiGiacomo can be read HERE
Comments from parents and Chatham High swim alumni in support of DiGiacomo can be read HERE
"The captains love me and they're trying to get me back," DiGiacomo said. "I love those kids, those parents. I love the town of Chatham, it's absolutely amazing. The administration is going to do what they think they want to do. After seeing all of that support, I really appreciate it. I just don't know if the administration is going to go back. For them to rehire me and change their mind because people complained, I don't know if they'll want to do that. It's a no-win situation for me. I want nothing more in the world to coach at Chatham, but I'm not and there's nothing I can do about it now.
"I would come back in a heartbeat. The kids, the family and the community means everything to me."
DiGiacomo is a fulltime physical education teacher at the middle school in Parsippany.
"I'll land on my feet," DiGiacomo said. "Stuff like this happens for a reason. I'm a big believer in karma. The good I spread to others will come back to me."