High School Sports Practice (Re: Safety/Health concerns)

This thread was indirectly inspired by Korey Stringer’s death as a result of heatstroke during football practice.

I’m interested in the Dopers’ opinions/stories about the prevalence (or lack thereof) of unsafe sports practices in High School.

I am not an athlete, but as there were a total of 4 other males who didn’t play sports in my Sophomore class last year, nearly all of my friends and acquaintances are. The football coach (We’ll call him P) was notorious for his harsh practices and lack of sympathy for the players. Apparently, he was also quite fond of making the players run excessive laps around the field. It wasn’t uncommon for a player to stop, vomit, and continue running in the 90+degree Oklahoma heat. Sometimes (on P’s bad days, presumably) they were penalized for stopping to vomit with more laps. He expected something along the lines of “turn your head to the side and let it fly.”

My school was tiny, so P coached track as well, and the situation was essentially the same.

It boggles my mind that the players submitted to this sort of treatment, and that the parents allowed it.

I’m interested in answers to the following, or anything related to these questions:

What was your experience, as either a player or spectator, of potentially dangerous activities (not counting participation in the sports themselves, heh) during High School athletics practice?


Do you feel that sports training is becoming too “intensive” in High School?

Thanks in advance,

Last year, there were weeks and weeks of very hot days at the beginning of the school year. I ran cross country and our coach would not alter our practices to ensure that no one would become sick from the heat. One day, the temperature was so high that the athletic director for our district required all sports have a minor practice, if any at all. Our coaches didn’t make our practice any less strenuous than they regularly were; in fact, the coaches were upset because we were scheduled to have an extra-tough practice. It was the only time that year that I had to stop and walk because it was just too much.

Also, our coaches insisted that all girls run when suffering from menstrual cramps. That made me laugh out loud, because I can’t even sit up when I have menstrual cramps, let alone run. As women coaches I think they should be at least a little sympathetic to that.

It’s no excuse for such horrible treatment but here’s something to consider… The players volunteered to play, they are there out of their own free will, last I checked sports are not mandatory and if there is a requirement for some sort of physical activity to graduate you could always opt to take a general PE class.
That aside I’ve never really seen that kind of behavior at the highschool level. I have played soccer for AYSO and have several friends that played club soccer where you were paying to play and it was much more intense. There has almost always been at least a few coaches that fully believe that you can “walk off” any injury. However in general I have yet to see any seriously harmful practices in high school sports. Yes, I’ve seen girls throw up at soccer practice while running laps, yes I’ve seen girls feel light headed enough to almost faint but most of this tyope of thing is taken care of rather nicely. Maybe my coaches are just really great.


Yth, I think that to be honest, P is an idiot. I know that sporting is about pushing one’s self to the maximum extreme, but well, if these kids wanted drill sergeants they could have signed up for the Marines! I don’t consider it particularly “effeminate” to take frequent water breaks, and in fact, I think that water and rest IMPROVES practice performance. As a certified USA Rugby Level I coach, I learned that fairly precise movements (especially introduced for the first time) MUST be practiced with fresh players, otherwise their exhaustion leads them to practice poor technique, and it’s more difficult to “unlearn” engrained bad practice than it is to learn it the first time. Of course you have to take your players to exhaustion since in a game situation they’ll be operating there (and more dynamic drills can be used with more simple skills), but utter sadism will not get a coach anywhere!

Of course, in relation to the Stringer case, I wouldn’t really want to point a finger anywhere. Dennis Green actually runs a fairly non-strenuous camp compared to other coaches (and normally in Minnesota it would be fairly temperate). I think that someone should have noticed that he vomited THREE times or the dumb bastard should have swallowed his pride and taken a seat. Similarly, the college cases in Florida probably had to try to hard with the need to impress and would give anything to make the college squad. I think that these are tragic accidents that could have happened anywhere, and if this points out to athletes, professional and amateur, the necessity of hydration and rest, then at least these deaths won’t be in vain.

I’m a coach (volleyball, track, and also did basketball in the past), and am required by state law to take a “Heat Clinic” every year.

The Heat Clinic is a 2-hour course in the dangers of deyhdration and heat exhaustion. The state implemented this program a few years ago because of the problems addressed in this thread. The course is well taught, and my impression is that it is taken seriously by most participants.

A brief note about training techniques:

It is necessary to push athletes somewhat so they can reach higher levels of performance. Many don’t know what they are capable of. The trick is to do it in such a way that is not dangerous.

This is complicated by the fact that not everone is capable of the same level of performance, have varying levels of intrinsic motivation, and respond differently to various kinds of coaching. It’s not easy.

I do not often see coaching practices that I consider dangerous in this respect, at least not intentionally. Often these problems are simply accidents. And some kids won’t say anything when they are in discomfort. Especially the boys because they want to be tough.

IMHO, modern high school coaches are no more intense than their predecessors. I can testify that sports training in high school 25 years ago was not much different for me than it is for my sons today. Some of the differences that I have noticed are that today’s training equipment is far more advanced, the skills training is much more specialized, and the athletes, on average, are bigger at a younger age. However, the conditioning drills that I witness are oftentimes less strenuous than those from earlier eras.

An interesting aside, I think, is that there seems to be an abundance of kids without dads playing sports today. IOW, it is good that these kids can find positive male influence at an impressionable age, but IAW, the days of bleachers full of dads watching practice are a thing of the past. IMHO, kids who are fortunate enough to have fathers that play an active role in their lives are far less likely to push themselves beyond their physical capacities. Have you noticed that every time we hear about an incident like Korey Stringer’s, they involve male athletes? Why do you think that is?

ICSFO, but my dad, my grandfather, and my uncle all taught me a lot about myself, physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I can hardly imagine growing up without even one of them, much less all of them. I am not implying that any of this applies to Korey Stringer. I’m afraid that I must plead ignorance of the details surrounding his life, but I believe that he pushed himself beyond his physical capacity. The coaches were simply doing their jobs.


Of course some of us might have a different idea of what is safe and unsafe.


I can’t think of many coaches who didn’t require excessive laps around the field. Even my wrestling coach was fond of making us run excessive laps.


I played football in the great state of Texas. I understand how it feels to run excessive laps around the field when the temperature is 90-100 degrees. In my experience in was mostly the lineman, the heavier kids, who were prone to vomiting. Though I once thought I was going to pass out because of the heat and exertion.


The players enjoy the game and the parents sign those little waivers. Most people who play sports don’t die or receive any serious injuries.


I played football for two years and I wrestled for four. In both cases there was no danger outside of participation in the sport itself or training for that sport.

For the most part, no. Unless something has changed since 1994. Let’s take football for example. Sometimes people will break bones. Sometimes people will pass out. And rarely someone will die.


The 3 times vomited was refuted on the radio today. He is known to have vomited only once.

Owatonna, MN

IMHO coaches, if anything, go easier on kids nowadays because of the constant fear of legal recourse from parents or losing their jobs due to parental bitching.
When I was in HS I ran track and I ran for personal pleasure. I would push myself so hard that vomiting really was no big deal, the only important thing was how far I could push myself. I would throw up at least a couple times a week, but I became a great athlete in the process. The difference in modern kids and kids of previous generations is that kids today don’t work as hard at anything as their parents did, and parents are supporting this behavior.

People just need to learn to toughen up.