Could a high school sports team go on strike?

In the film Varsity Blues, a high school football team refuses to play if one of their teammates (who is obviously injured) is put back on the field after being given an injection of painkillers. One by one the key players on the team step up and say they’ll quit if the coach gives him the shot.

This is sort of a last minute and improvised act. I’m wondering if a more carefully planned “strike” of a high school sports team has ever occurred.

Say a coach has been treating his players poorly. It need not be for a whole season, it could be just for a few weeks. The players feel he’s being too hard on them, making them run too many sprints or whatever, being too belligerent. Could the whole team just decide to tell him they’ll all quit unless he starts treating them better?

I realize, having played sports in high school, that most team members will just take whatever the coach dishes out, however brutal (within reason; I’m sure official complaints would be made if the coach hit a kid or something.) And I can remember some ridiculously brutal practices (wrestling, especially) where we did sprints and drills for three hours with guys puking and everyone totally pissed off, if someone mouthed off to coach or we did badly at a meet. This coach could be extremely mean and everyone was terrified of him. But nobody objected and everyone came back the next day.

What if a sufficiently charismatic player took advantage of low morale on a team and convinced everyone to “go on strike”?

Could this actually work?

If everyone on a team quit, would the coach still get paid his salary? Or would he be fired for not handling the situation properly?

I can’t answer the rest, but I think most HS coachs are PE teachers (at least on paper). He might be hired for their coaching abilitiy instead of his teaching ablility, he might spend consider teaching PE a distraction from his “real job” (& openly say this), and he might be have six “prep periods” a day, but his official job description is still teacher. All of the boys’ PE teachers at my school were hired based on their football/basketball coaching abilities and put alot more effert into coaching after-school sports than teaching anything.

Some of the PE teachers at my high school were low-level assistant coaches for teams, but none of the major coaches of the major sports had anything to do with PE class.

My High School was a pretty good size (it’s still around and is in the highest division of athletics in the state and those divisions are based on number of enrolled students) and I believe we honestly only had one PE teacher in the whole school.

He did coach basketball.

The football coach was hired solely as football coach and was not affiliated with the school itself.

Every other coach we had was a full time teacher in something totally unrelated to PE. I don’t have anything approaching data, but most of the coaches of other teams in our conference were also teachers, and like my school most of them weren’t PE teachers. (Something I heard openly said back then is that becoming PE teacher is very difficult, most schools only had 1-2 and it was considered the easiest job–a lot of PE teachers stayed on to a much older age than other teachers.)

For the one coach we had who was not a teacher, his salary was something like $250 for the season, or something equally ridiculous. From what I’ve heard, the pay for a football coach at my HS today is around $2,000 for the whole season. So I’d say not much has changed, basically you get paid a small amount for your time but it’s definitely not a feasible “career” in and of itself.

Anyway, unless something has changed High School athletics are 100% voluntary. The coaches are hired by the school principal. If the entire team refused to play for a given coach, the principal would really have two options:

  1. Cancel that sport for that season, or maybe even permanently
  2. Replace the coach

(Assuming the principal wouldn’t be able to mediate the problem.) There wouldn’t be any consequences for the players outside of the fact they would no longer be able to play their sport (which is big enough in and of itself that it explains the reason most high school athletes put up with domineering coaches in the first place.)

Were all students required to take PE in your HS or was it an elective? It was a state requirement (except in 11th grade when we took health instead). There were 3-4 boys’ PE teachers and one girls’ PE teacher. The boys’ teachers coached football, basketball, & wrestling. All but one of the social studies teachers either coached a sport or assisted with the big 3. The girls’ PE teacher coached girls sports with the help of other female teachers.

The head football coach was also the chair of the PE dept. He only “taught” one period a day. That’s it. No study halls, no lunch duty, no restroom duty. I had him senior year and he actually told me that it “wasn’t his job” to teach anything. The girls’ PE teacher was the one who let it slip that the one class he had was for legal reasons so he’d be considered faculty and the district could pay him.

A strike like that posited by the OP would be a BIG DEAL at most American high schools. The principal and the school board would almost certainly get involved, and even in the football-crazed South I suspect the coach’s head would eventually roll. It wouldn’t be pleasant for the team members, though, as they endured the controversy. High school sports are voluntary but of vast importance to many here.

At a medium to big schools, I’d say it would be a big deal. At smaller schools, not so much. My graduating class was in the range of 150-170 and even though, we had a fairly legitimate sports program for our size, every coach taught full time. The head football coach was for instance, my 10th grade English teacher. The coaches did not really have the sway over the programs so they’d be protected if a fair number of players complained to athletic director. He/She would be removed quietly, I would think. Unless they made a fuss about it or had achieved some sort of legendary status as a winner at the school. It was clear that their first job was to be a teacher.

Fun aside- My senior year, my tennis team didn’t have a coach. We had a teacher who stood around and looked coachy, but the players (the entire varsity team were seniors) ran the practices and set the schedules. The athletic director did all the paperwork as far as getting equipment and coordinating between the schools, but the players did most everything else, including talk to the opposing coaches or reporters before the matches. (Yeah, the local papers actually had a guy who covered HS tennis exclusively.) This came back to bite us when it turned out the AD hadn’t filed the right entry paperwork for the playoffs. So instead of being a #1 seed in the regional tournament, we were a #7. Still managed to go the finals.

To continue on with the theme presented by some of the other posters:

I have an uncle who coached in Michagan (He’s in the Michigan Coach’s Hall of Fame by-the-by). I remember hearing him say shortly after he retired that he never tought a single class. Once, during some hard economic times, they had cut back on staff and he was so afraid he’d be called on to teach that he got his books out and started cramming. He was a paid coach too and that was all he did.

At my high school MOST coaches also had teaching jobs, but it wouldn’t be considered uncommon if a coach was not affiliated with the school. And I don’t know if I can answer the question either but I remember once when I was at JV football practice the coaches were being particularly douchebaggy and our star wide receiver took off his pads and started to walk to his car. Our head coach practically got to his knees and begged the star to come back and stay on the team. Pretty funny considering this was the second most populated high school in Florida.

I used to be an assistant girls volleyball coach at a local private school…and I ran the JV program there. I wasn’t affiliated with the school in any other way, and neither was my head coach. (Well, she was married to one of the football coaches, but that’s it).

I seem to remember being paid a few hundred dollars for the season…or something insignificant like that.

Happily, most of my players liked me, and never threatened to strike.

It’s been so long now I don’t want to be called to the stand on it, but my recollection is that yes all students were required to take PE to graduate. However, it is also my recollection that if you were in ROTC or any school affiliated sporting team you were exempted from the PE requirement. At my school that meant a very, very small portion of the school actually would have to take PE. Which is probably how it wasn’t a problem for us to have 1 PE teacher for the school.

I coach at a small school(~850 enrollment). Almost all of the single coach sports are teachers but the multi-coach sports are mostly non-teachers .

The teaching staff here is small and the relative lack of expertise in the sports requires getting outside help.

I get about 1600-1700 as an assistant for track and the head coach in cross country splits his stipend with me.

ETA: The few “pure” PE teachers are all coaches.

To be fair, being the athletic director for a good size school is a really big job. It’s not just a matter of running practices: it’s dealing with a complex budget (it’s easy to have a dozen different teams, all with complex equipment needs), supervising quite a few people, dealing with fundraisers . . .it’s easily a full time job. And the time commitment of coaching is really insane. Practices run till 6 or later after school, and even after the kids go home, coaches are putting up equipment (kids do not do this as well as they think they do), running the laundry, and reviewing tape/making plans. They also spend a lot of time counseling individual kids and dealing with individual parents. Games take even more time: during football season, it’s only one game a night, but it isn’t over until after eleven. Baseball, basketball, and volleyball all play a couple times a week, and those games can go long by the time JV and varsity have played.

I have a lot of problems with coaches, but I would never suggest they don’t work hard. They work their asses off.

Only the athletic directors (boy’s and girl’s) coaches in my school do not teach. Some teach PE/health, but most teach an academic subject. Some make a real attempt to balance classroom and field, but they are less successful as coaches. It’s simply impossible to do both jobs well.

I am not sure what would happen if a team went on strike here in TX, but it would potentially cause huge problems. For one thing, the state rules require schools to have a full set of sports: if you play sports at all, you have to have them all–you can’t just focus on basketball or football. So we haul a couple-three kids to wrestling matches to get their butts kicked because we have to (we are small for our division. It’s hard to fill the same number of teams with half the students). If our football team just didn’t play. . . it might have ripple effects on other teams.

Of course it would work. Why not? What’s to stop a high school student - or all of them - from quitting the team?

On the other hand, like any strike in the adult world, the strikers are taking a big gamble. Their demands might get answered, or they might have to settle for a compromise. Or they might just get replaced.

That’s a secondary question, which the others have commented on. I just wanted to make sure that the OP itself wasn’t ignored.

Much like the ripple effect when the firefighters strike out of sympathy for the police. Or vice versa.

Our local Major Junior hockey team actually did this once. They were upset at the “training tactics” of one of their coaches, so they all locked themselves in a hotel room and didn’t show up for the next game. Not sure how the situation resolved itself though.