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Canton Girls Basketball Coach Kayla Bridges let go after winningest season in ten years; P-CEP students and families voice their opinions

Lucas Gentilia
Players on the Canton Girls Varsity Basketball team sit and listen to citizens’ comments at the April 16 Board of Education meeting

In the 2019-20 season, Canton Varsity Girls Basketball earned just a 1-20 record. The team was 11-52 from 2017-2020 until Kayla Bridges, a Canton graduate and Wayne State Girls Basketball Alumni, stepped in as head coach after the end of the 2019-20 season. Every season after Bridges arrived at The Park, the team garnered a better record, culminating with a 21-6 mark and an MHSAA Regional Final berth this past season. 

Bridges’ contract was not renewed and she was let go on April 10, 2024. Upset, players and supporters took to the P-CCS Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, April 16, to ensure board members heard their voices. Their goal – reinstate Bridges as head coach.

Canton junior Julia Allen gives her comments to the board regarding Kayla Bridges. (Lucas Gentilia)

 Senior captain Justice Tramble did not speak at the meeting but said she was happy to see her teammates stand up for what they believe in.

“We were taught and grown to be leaders, and now we’re standing up for what we believe is right,” said Tramble. “[Coach Bridges] taught us to be leaders. She taught us to voice our opinions. If we feel something is wrong, it’s wrong.”

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Families of the team created an online petition to reinstate Bridges as head coach through a Google Sheet spreadsheet where those interested in signing wrote their names, email addresses and phone numbers. As of April 23, the form had 287 signatures from various groups of people such as players on the team, P-CCS families, and other students from the district. 

During citizens’ comments in the board meeting, Canton junior Julia Allen who just finished her third season on the girls varsity team shared her testimony on Coach Bridges.

“She has done commendable things on and off the court, such as going to our former teammate’s school play, visiting me after my knee surgeries, supporting the multi-sport athletes on this team and asking us for feedback to make the program better at the end of each season,” said Allen. “Nobody has ever questioned her commitment to the team. She’s taught me things I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.”

In a letter posted on Facebook, of which the content cannot be commented on by Canton administration, Bridges shared her perspective on how she was let go. After an end-of-season meeting with Canton Athletic Director Kristen Farkas, Bridges said she was praised for the season that she and her team had just completed; however, in her letter, she says that she was let go two days later over a phone call with administration. 

The P-CCS Board of Education listens to citizens’ comments given by players and parents. (Lucas Gentilia)

Bridges said that she wanted to still help the program. “I want to be clear that this was not my decision and I had every intention of being committed and present for our group next year,” said Bridges in her letter. “I want to make sure the program and players are left in good hands, so I will assist with the transition in any way that I can.”

South Carolina State commit Tramble said she was genuinely sad when Bridges told her the news. 

“It’s really disheartening, especially for a coach like her. I know it’s hard for her with her contract not being renewed, said Tramble. “She put so much time and effort into the team she built up. I know for her and returning players it has to hurt.”

As of April 20, Canton Principal David Reed-Nordwall stated he is unable to comment on the matter but promises to support the players and communicate with them throughout the process. 

“Our work right now is to work through this over the next few days, communicate with the team, communicate with families, and then communicate with the community about where we’re at and help us heal from what is clearly a painful situation.”

This story was originally published on The Perspective on April 23, 2024.