A Kelowna high school football coach is being investigated by BC School Sports after concerns were brought forward by Okanagan Mission Secondary School (OKM).
OKM Principal Derek Lea said that allegations against Coach Johannes Van Leenen first came to light in December 2021.
“We did an investigation and found that we had valid concerns with the allegations,” said Lea. “So, we parted ways with coach Johannes and forwarded that information. We self-reported that information to BC School Sports to allow them to make a determination about what the outcome would be and what the official sanctions from BC School Sports would be.”
Lea said initial reports were related to undue influence, or a situation where someone’s free will is replaced by that of another. Van Leenen allegedly paid students on the team under the guise they would do work for him, but Lea noted there is no evidence of any work being done.
Van Leenen is also accused of allowing over-age, ineligible individuals to play in a game against Salmon Arm.
A letter was sent by the school to parents in early February informing them of Van Leenen’s resignation.
With each new allegation, Lea said they willingly sent the information for investigation.
“At this point, it is sort of unofficial additional sanctions. We’re waiting for the official letter,” Lea commented.
Allegations also arose that Van Leenen allowed an out-of-area student to use his residential address in order to play with the team. Lea confirmed the student was never registered to attend the school.
Although the spring football season is simply for training, OKM athletes will not have the chance to get on the field.
“The problem with the spring season for us is that we have to have a new head coach,” said Lea. “One of the sanctions or one of the expectations of BC School Sports is that we have an oversight plan in place before starting football, which we feel we have ready for them, but part of that oversight plan is to ensure that we have a new teacher sponsor.”
Lea said the last teacher sponsor did a great job, but he was also the athletic director.
“BC School Sport felt having an additional layer of oversight so that the teacher sponsor was separate from the athletic director needed to happen.”
OKM is looking at a number of candidates for a new head coach. Lea said anyone interested in the position should contact the school.
“We have a relatively new football program. We are looking forward to having the program ready to go for fall when the competitive season starts.
“And although one of the sanctions we believe will be that we are ineligible for playoffs, we hope to have a full competitive season prior to the playoffs.”