Parents claim a Wilson County athletic director encouraged hazing in an exercise involving their daughter and another player at a recent soccer practice.
The athletic director – longtime Fike High soccer coach and PE teacher Toni Varacchi – was suspended with pay on April 9, according to the school system.
A statement from Wilson Schools spokeswoman Amber Lynch did not specify the cause or a duration for the suspension.
“This is a confidential personnel matter and the school district is prohibited from releasing any additional information at this time,” Lynch said in a statement.
Varacchi on Thursday declined to comment on the suspension. Fike principal Randy St. Clair has not returned a request for comment.
Varacchi is somewhat of a legend in the local soccer realm, having amassed more than 600 career wins coaching the Fike girls and boys teams to a combined 23 conference titles over the past 23 years, according to The Wilson Times.
But Ken and Kelly Barnes say an exercise Varacchi billed as a game during practice on March 26 went too far. Their freshman daughter, Parker, was pitted against a larger, junior teammate in a goalie activity intended “to toughen you up,” despite Varacchi telling her she was at a size disadvantage, they said.
The mother of the other player involved could not be reached for comment.
Parker’s parents claim Varacchi signaled there were no rules for the goalies and gave the larger keeper the OK to slam Parker to the ground multiple times over the course of the 15-to-20-minute drill.
“The only reason we even knew anything was wrong was because that night she complained her back and shoulder was hurting,” Ken Barnes said. “Like any other teenager, she downplayed it. But the more my wife kept digging, the more kept coming out.”
The Barneses said they met with St. Clair and Varacchi a few days after the incident. During the visit, the parents told St. Clair the only outcome that would satisfy them would be if Varacchi was terminated from her position.
The parents say some members of the team have ostracized their daughter for reporting foul play, and allege Varacchi rallied parents and players to take her side on the matter.
“People were retaliating via social media and coming out to support a coach, telling us were blowing this out of proportion,” Kelly Barnes said. “It’s mind blowing to support a coach when this was the directive from her.”
Ken Barnes said his daughter, who also ran cross country and played volleyball in the fall, is done with Fike soccer for the time being.