LETTER: Joe Kelly is a Extraordinary Coach and and Empathetic Person

Letter to the editor from Jeff Negrin

In light of Joe Kelly’s campaign for State Representative of the 150th District, I felt compelled to share a heartwarming story about what I witnessed a year ago during a Greenwich High School rugby game.

Before the game started, everything was going as normal; The boys were doing their thing: warming up, stretching, getting ready for the match, as they were clearly trained to do. The coaches were there for guidance, if needed, but as Joe tells us parents every year: this team belongs to the boys.

What stood out to me, though, was how I saw Joe walk past me with his arm around one of our athletes that was struggling with something; Joe was looking at the athlete in the eyes, helpful and hopeful, but also suggesting that he needed to think through whatever the issue was on his own.

Once the game started, we realized the referee was missing. No ref, no problem. Joe hopped onto the field and got it going. Obviously he’s an accomplished ref, but his reputation is extraordinary enough that an opposing team allowed the opposing head coach to be the ref!

Once the official referee arrived, Joe immediately went to grab the flag to run the lines—the best seat in the house—as he says.

Then, a player went down hard, one of our own, and it surprised no one when Joe sprinted to his aid. Once the physical trainer arrived, Joe immediately moved both teams—who, to their credit, were dutifully on their knees already—away from the player so he could be treated in privacy.

Finally, there was an incident with a player—again, one of our own—who clearly was bothered enough by something to unsettle him and the situation escalated quickly.   And again, Joe ran: not afraid, not away, but into the “burning building”, towards the player who needed help. I have no idea how it resolved when he got there, but Joe went without hesitation and worked to calm the player down.

I’m sure over the years Joe has seen it all before, and so he could make the case that what I saw today was merely experience in action. But, reflecting on it now, I asked my son, Bradley, if all the guys like Coach Kelly and he replied “yeah, everybody really loves him.” This and his winning record certainly support that he’s an extraordinary coach. 

But what I witnessed that day clearly showed that he’s also an extraordinary and empathetic person. It was miraculous and incredibly inspirational to see him in action. If the kids take away even just a little bit of this from Joe, we all should be incredibly thankful. 

And if Joe approaches politics with even a fraction of the passion he approaches coaching rugby, then our state and town will benefit tremendously because of it.

Jeff Negrin