The future is clearer now for Jefferson Forest boys soccer following a decision by the Bedford County School Board on Thursday night to amend a policy that led to Scott Zaring’s ouster as coach during the summer.
On Thursday, the school board voted, 4-3, to change a policy that prevented Bedford County Public Schools from employing family members that would work in a direct supervisory relationship, as was the case for Scott Zaring, the Cavaliers boys soccer coach, and his father, JF athletic director Jedd Zaring. Under the new policy, Scott will have a chance to once again serve as coach.
The new policy — which Julie Bennington, Richard Downey, Marcus Hill and John Hicks voted to approve and Jason Johnson, Susan Kirby and Martin Leamy opposed — allows for a family member of an employee to be employed “in a part-time extracurricular position.” The new policy further stipulates if the assigned supervisor to the part-time employee is a family member, an alternate supervisor approved by the school principal must be assigned.
Thursday’s vote brings an end to a months-long limbo period for Scott Zaring, who led the Cavaliers to a 17-2-2 record, a Seminole District championship and a trip to the Region 4D semifinals in the spring after helping them to an 11-4-2 record in 2018, his first season.
“People kept asking if I was nervous. I think I was mostly just anxious. I wanted to get in here and just kind of get it over with. Obviously I was happy with the result,” he said. “I’m just glad it is behind us.”
Zaring, who has said he always hoped to be back as coach, told his players and their families in July he wouldn’t be back, citing the policy at the time as preventing him from maintaining his position.
Since then, dozens of people came to Zaring’s defense and advocated for a policy change. The board initially decided it would discuss a potential policy change this past August, launching Zaring into a period of uncertainty over whether he would be allowed to return.
The school board discussed the policy as an informational item last month, then cast the narrow vote Thursday in just a few minutes, without any discussion.
After the meeting, board members who cast opposite opposing votes stressed their decisions were not made with Zaring in mind. Instead, they based their votes on the policy change on the good of the division as a whole.
“It was an issue that I’ve given a lot of thought to, and for me, it just came down to I think it’s safest not to change the policy,” Johnson said. “It has nothing to do with any particular individual or anything like that.”
Hill, who voted for the policy change, said he’s seen schools struggle to find and keep good coaches. He added a Virginia High School League policy that allows for year-round practices can provide an obstacle in that individuals who may have coached multiple sports in the past now can be forced to give up the additional activities in favor of just one sport.
“Sometimes you have to address your policy as times change. We talk about retaining and recruiting the best of the best, so we had to make sure we’re doing what we say we’re gonna do,” he said. “ … I felt like it was the right thing to do for all schools.”
Hill, like Johnson, said his decision was made without Zaring in mind, but he added he’s glad the vote allows JF to retain a quality coach.
“This was about the policy. It wasn’t about Scott, but I’m thankful we get to retain Scott, because Scott and his family have been part of JF soccer for 26 years,” referring to Scott, who has been the coach the past two years, and Jedd Zaring, who coached the varsity boys team for the 24 previous years before moving into his current position.
“We want to retain and recruit the best, so why not keep the best?”
A large contingent of current Jefferson Forest soccer players streamed out of the meeting room after learning their coach, with the policy change, could return, and celebrated the board’s decision.
The group called the move a relief from the uncertainty they also faced.
“It was disappointing that we didn’t know who was gonna be our coach and that he was leaving, because he’s a good coach,” JF senior soccer player Cody Syrek said, explaining how he and his teammates felt upon hearing the news earlier in the year about Zaring. “We’ve always had success under him. … It was just frustrating that we didn’t know what was going on during the whole offseason.”
Syrek, whom players called a team captain, said Zaring was a big part of their success, and his potential return could help them accomplish their ultimate goal: getting to states.
“I think we just all like him. We play well under him,” Syrek said, “and I think he helps us get better.”
Jefferson Forest never hired anyone to fill Zaring’s position, so Zaring expects to be back to work with his team in the coming weeks, though exact steps for reinstatement haven’t been fully determined yet.
Jedd Zaring, the athletic director, said he would talk with the division’s human resources officials to determine what should happen next. The policy change will at least require the appointing of a new direct supervisor for Scott Zaring upon a return to the sideline.
“I’ll have to get with [my dad] and the principal and kind of see where we go from here,” Scott Zaring said.
According to Scott Zaring, preseason for Jefferson Forest varsity boys soccer should begin at the beginning of next month with weightlifting, conditioning and getting back on the field. The regular season will begin in the spring.
“I’m just excited to be able to actually start now, and looking forward to all the practices and all that stuff again. It’s been a good experience going through this, but it’s definitely been long,” Zaring said, “and I’m happy to be able to kind of put it behind us and get moving forward.”