Globe Editorial

An apology should suffice

April 4, 2011

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FORMER WELLESLEY High School volleyball coach Wayne Lem appears to be an honorable man, if an unlucky one. He came to school last week with his home DVD player intending to show his players a video of top performing college volleyball players. What popped up instead was a snippet of a pornographic movie.

No evidence has emerged that Lem, 56, of Newton, has been anything but professional during 30 years of coaching, including stints at area high schools and colleges. Despite his deep humiliation, he didn’t run away from the problem or try to cover it up. Instead he met with parents, students, and school officials to give a full accounting of the incident. And then he resigned of his own accord.

There are important extenuating circumstances in this case. Lem didn’t activate the DVD player. He was hunting in his gym bag for the volleyball DVD when one of his players switched on the machine. Lem quickly turned it off and apologized to his players. The point isn’t how the DVD got there originally. The point is that it was an accident. The best insight into Lem’s character came when he assured the player who turned the machine on that the boy bore no responsibility for any future consequence suffered by the coach.

Lem said he preaches accountability to his players and believed he would be viewed as a hypocrite if he didn’t resign his post. Some parents and players rightly urged him to reconsider. This was, by all accounts, an honest mistake that required an explanation and apology, not self-sacrifice. If the Wellesley school district can’t convince Lem to return, some other school would benefit from both his character and his skill as a volleyball coach.