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Oregon high school football players make team visit to hospital — for treatment

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When will coaches ever learn? The lesson of the Junction Boys — Bear Bryant’s infamous desert preseason camp for his 1954 Texas A&M Aggies –is that putting your football players through intense practices in extreme heat with no access to water is a great way to decimate your team. Of course, that Bryant’s winless Aggies of 1954 went undefeated the next year must be why so many coaches persist of thinking about the Junction Boys as an effective exercise in team-building and following your coach, like how locking Patty Hearst in a closet was an effective exercise in team-building and following your Dear Leader.

Now there was someone who was coachable.

If first-year McMinnville, Ore., High School football coach Jeff Kearin wanted to follow an example of Bryant’s, he should have just gotten fitted for a houndstooth hat. Instead, Kearin put his charges through an indoor version of the Junction Boys, an indoor “immersion” cap that unified the team — at the local hospital.

From OregonLive.com (as of 10:30 p.m. local time Aug. 22):

Doctors say a unique combination of elements — high heat, dehydration and heavy exercise — is to blame for sending more than a dozen McMinnville High School football players to the hospital this week.

Dr. Craig Winkler, who treated seven of the affected players, said a workout at a preseason camp run by first-year coach Jeff Kearin on Aug. 15 probably triggered the uncommon soft-tissue condition, known as rhabdomyolysis, or its more serious counterpart, “compartment syndrome.” … [Left untreated, it can be fatal.]

Winkler said 14 players were admitted throughout the week, although about 30 players who attended the camp were referred to the hospital to be checked out.

Three players required emergency surgery, one on both arms. …

Players, with bedding in tow, arrived at the “immersion camp” Aug. 15 at the high school and were soon run through a series of push-ups and “chair dips,” which work out the triceps.  … [A parent of a sick player] said players have told him they were not allowed to drink water until they completed the exercises.

Winkler, who doubles as the football team’s physician, also questioned the wisdom of the workouts.

Players told him “they were working out for more than 20 minutes in an enclosed room in 115-degree heat,” Winkler said. “That seems pretty intense to me. From a medical point of view, I would not allow anyone to exercise at temperatures over 100.”

Apparently players were afraid to speak up because they were all too busy trying to impress the new coach, who said the 11 hardest-working players would get to play, according to the OregonLive.com account. Plus, what high school player has ever stood up to a football coach? And lived? Of course, if Kearin deemed players were slacking off, they would have to do the drill again.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a hard workout, or even making players do a drill again if they aren’t working hard enough. But if it’s in the 90s outside, and you’re in an un-air conditioned room, you might want to make a few allowances for safety. This highlights how in almost all cases at the high school level at below, there is no medical professional or anyone else to tell a coach to back off. Maybe there is a trainer who works for the coach. So it’s upon coaches to make the smart decision — one that isn’t always made. (Perhaps it would help if coaches were instructed, or had access, to call a physician or someone who could make a medical judgment on what they could do in extreme conditions.)

Kearin is quoted at OregonLive.com that he realizes his “silence is deafening,” but that the school won’t let him talk. He shouldn’t worry. Kearin will be able to talk all he wants, under his counsel’s watch, in the at least 30 lawsuits (30 being the number of players that had to make a trip to the hospital) that will be coming against the school.

However, Kearin might have one saving grace that could keep him out of criminal court and make him the next Jason Stinson. From OregonLive.com:

But Winkler said he is also waiting for blood tests looking for the presence of creatine, a legal, loosely regulated and widely available bodybuilding supplement present in a number of weight-gain products that has been linked to an increased risk of sports-related injury.

“We’re looking to see if there’s some inciting event or some toxins that led to this massive injury,” Winkler said.

Creatine was a factor in the case against Stinson, a Louisville high school football coach acquitted last year on charges relating to the death of one of his players, who overheated during a practice on a 90-degree day. There was evidence the deceased player had used creatine, a muscle-building supplement that can accelerate dehydration. (The player also had taken ADHD medication, which has a similar effect on dehydration.)

If Kearin stuck his players in a hot, hot room and didn’t let them have water, he was stone wrong. But if any of those players were taking supplements that turned being overheated into a near-fatal illness — well, Kearin is still wrong, but it’s possible he could be off the hook legally. Hey, if Kearin is going to follow Bryant’s path, getting away with running his players into the ground early in his career would lead to a lot of success later.

LATE ADD: In another story, Dr. Winkler says that the affected players — three of whom did have compartment syndrome (out of the 19 players out of the 30 checked that ended up having injuries) — will not be tested for steroids because, according to The Associated Press, it’s believed “it would be unlikely for that many students to have access, and ‘creatine makes way more sense.'”

Are you kidding me? If one player can have a steroid connection, that person would be MORE than happy to sell to multiple players on one team. This is not a comment on whether the players were taking steroids or anything else. Again, even if they were roided to the gills (because they were so roided they developed gills), that coach should not have had them in a hotbox for drills. But the school is fooling itself if it thinks it’s not possible for the whole damn team to be juicing.

Heck, if I were the school, and I could get away with it (but maybe I couldn’t), I would insist on toxicology tests for every chemical known and unknown to man as a way to limit my liability when the lawsuits come. After all, if it turned out that the injured players were using something (again, I have no evidence they did, nor do I mean to say they did — I’m thinking like a desperate-to-save-my-ass superintendent), and the players who did not succumb to the heat were not, I would want that as Exhibit A in my defense.

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Written by rkcookjr

August 23, 2010 at 12:37 pm

High school football team solves Ramadan, heatstroke problem in one fell swoop

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The football team at Dearborn (Mich.) Fordson High School reflects the population of its student body, in that both are heavily of the Arabic persuasion.

The challenge for the football team comes when Ramadan, a holy month in Islam whose most prominent feature is the requirement that Muslims refrain from eating and drinking in daylight hours. Dearborn Fordson has learned from past experience that when Ramadan falls during football season, not eating and drinking, intended to bulk up the spiritual strength of the players, tends to sap their physical strength. Plus, players refusing water during hot August practices can be a tad dangerous.

So the Tractors, as they are called, came up with a way to solve the conflict between two religions (Islam and football), prevent heat exhaustion AND give their players a legitimate excuse for breaking curfew. From the Press & Guide Newspapers in Dearborn:

Fordson coach Fouad Zaban said the plan was to work from midnight until about 5 a.m. during the preseason, which this season falls during the period of Ramadan fasting.

“We’ve always had to practice and do some work while most of the kids were fasting and we’ve done what we can to adjust everyone’s schedule,” said Zaban, “but this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to really do something about it.

“School hasn’t started yet and we don’t have a game for three more weeks, so we can change our schedule around and now we won’t have players running around out there when it’s 90 degrees and they can’t get a drink of water.

“It’s a safety issue, but we think it’s going to be fun, too.”

On top of that, the players will get to spend their fasting time the easiest way possible: sleeping.

Actually, having midnight practices might not be a bad idea for the non-Muslim football population as well, at least as a way to beat the heat. Already this summer, there have been reports out of Atlanta, Kansas City, Rowan County, Ky., of high school football players being taken to hospitals because of heat exhaustion. In the Louisville area — where one Jason Stinson was tried but acquitted after one of his players died during a hot practice — one Christian high school is starting before sunrise.

And its training table isn’t even halal.

Written by rkcookjr

August 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Top youth sports stories of the year, part II (the final five)

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First, an apology. When I posted stories Nos. 10-6 for the top 10 youth sports stories of the year, I wrote that the next day, I would post No. 5-1. The first post went up Dec. 28. No second post Dec. 29. Or Dec. 30. Or Dec. 31. Or Jan. 1. I should know better than to promise on a schedule.

I presumed that news on the youth sports beat would be slow (it wasn’t), and that somehow having four kids home on winter vacation would be less than hectic (it wasn’t). Also, I was a tad late getting back from my 1o-year-old daughter’s basketball game today. I was accosted by an angry mother, the same one who tried to rush me at the bench once before, who wanted to know, in my role as a coach, if I knew what the fuck I was doing.

Actually, it was a bit entertaining, her screaming and swearing at me on the walk in front of our gym, as other parents and children stopped in their tracks to watch the entertainment (I, not she, got this view because I was facing the parking lot). Early on, the mom’s boyfriend implored her to get into the car (they had someplace they had to be), but then he turned on another guy when he started yelling at the mom to shut up. Fortunately, no riot ensued, although I wasn’t sure for a minute.

Without getting into all the details about her dispute — mainly, it was about how I was treating her son, the team’s best player and admittedly its biggest hothead — I will say that by the time the director of the basketball program rushed out in 5-degree weather to check out what was going on (he was called out by a dad from my team, who thankfully threw in that I was a nice guy), the conversation had turned civil. The mom just wanted to get her piece out, and she was willing to listen when I explained why I did what I did, that the point of this league wasn’t winning today, and that I hoped I was preparing her son for a leadership role on his school team. Or maybe she was freezing cold and couldn’t summon the energy anymore. I had two advantages: my Upper Peninsula of Michigan blood, and a much warmer coat. Maybe Mike Leach could have learned a little something, no?

So now, here I am, safe at home, no one yelling at me (yet), so I’ll take a few minutes to sum up the top five youth sports stories of the year.

5. Girls, girls, girls

Nearly 40 years after the passage of Title IX, requiring schools receiving public money to offer equal opportunities (in sports and elsewhere) to boys and girls, we’re still fighting about what that means. The most notable cases were in Indiana and Florida. The Indiana High School Athletic Association folded quickly, and correctly, when a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 14-year-old girl who wanted to try out for her high school baseball team, but was told state rules required her to play the “equal” sports of girls’ softball. She didn’t make the team, but of course that wasn’t the point.

By the way, with no litigation involved Emily Montgomery of Vincennes (Ind.) Rivet played left field for the school’s baseball team, which made it to the Class A state final before losing. Montgomery also played in the Class A state finals for girls’ basketball, too. Her brother asked her to join the baseball team for a practical reason — the school has only 92 students and otherwise would have had only 10 members.

Meanwhile, in Florida, things were a little more contentious.

A lawsuit filed by lead attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer, fought the state high school athletic association’s scheduling cuts to all sports except football and cheerleading, in the name of saving money as the state’s property tax collections went south with the housing market (which was no longer coming south). The lawsuit alleged Title IX violations because the cuts were not made equally. Originally, the Florida High School Athletic Association said they were, because, get this, football officially is a coed sport. Hey, just because only three girls out of 36,000 players are on rosters isn’t because chicks aren’t invited! (And you can’t cut cheerleading, because if you have football, you gotta have cheerleaders.)

Dutifully embarrassed, the FHSAA dropped the football-as-coed-sport nonsense and stopped the statewide cuts. Although, speaking of cuts, that brings us to our No. 4 story…

4. The economy’s effect on youth sports

Florida was one of multiple states that looked at cutting sports schedules statewide as a means of saving money. Although few did, a lot of cuts happened at the local level, most famously in Grove City, Ohio, where all extracurricular activities were cut after voters multiple times rejected tax increases (and then came back when they finally approved one). Schools nationwide implemented pay-to-play programs, meaning students were charged a fee when they previously were not in order to play sports.

However, the down economy did not necessarily mean that fewer children were playing. In fact, many cities nationwide were building large youth sports facilities in hopes of attracting tournaments that could fill up local hotels and restaurants, and fill up tax coffers hurting from the closing of the local plant.

3. 100-0

Dallas Morning News reporter Barry Horn happened to look at his newspaper’s girls’ basketball box scores and noticed something unusual: Covenant School 100, Dallas Academy 0. So he did a nice little story about Dallas Academy, a private school geared toward kids with learning disabilities, and one that has had athletic success. About 663,000 first-day page views later, 100-0 was a Rorschach test about sportsmanship. Did Covenant coach Micah Grimes run up the score by playing pressing defense for too long? Or was Dallas Academy responsible for preparing a team well enough so it didn’t get smoked 100-0? (Complicating matters was that Dallas Academy often was portrayed as a team of Special Olympians, when in fact the disabilities ran to the likes of ADHD and dyslexia.)

Blowout scores are endemic to girls’ basketball, where the quality of talent, coaching and commitment vary widely from school to school in comparison to boys’ sports. But all the bad publicity about 100-0, and Grimes’ public statement against his school’s apology for it, led to the coach’s firing in January, two weeks after the game. Meaning, Mike Leach was not the only Texas coach in 2009 to get canned after refusing to apologize.

A post-script: in December, Dallas Academy got its first victory since 2001-02, aided by a new team member who scored 31 of its 34 points in a 34-33 triumph. Another post-script: Dallas Academy also dropped out of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, meaning that Covenant was no longer forced to face it in association play.

2. The trial of David Jason Stinson

Stinson was indicted last January in Louisville, Ky., on reckless homicide charges after one his Pleasure Ridge Park High School football players, 15-year-old Max Gilpin, collapsed and died in an August 2008 practice. Gilpin was ruled to have died from overheating, and Stinson (by then the former Pleasure Ridge Park coach) became what was believed to be the first coach in the nation to face criminal charges for a player’s practice- or game-related death.

Youth and school coaches nationwide watched Stinson’s case closely (and some did more than that, contributing to his legal defense fund) for fear that they could be next if something terrible happened on their watch. After all, the case against Stinson was built mainly on him making his players run “gassers” at the end of a practice in 94-degree heat-index weather, and Stinson’s bluster that he was going to keep his team running until somebody quit, and his allegedly denying players water. Sounds harsh, but it also sounds like what 90 percent of coaches have done at some point.

It turned out that it took the jury only 90 minutes to acquit Stinson, in part because of evidence Gilpin took Adderall and creatine, both of which can cause quicker dehydration. (A civil suit filed by Gilpin’s parents, however, is still in play.) Still, his case, if nothing else, got a lot of coaches and authorities to take heat and dehydration more seriously, including in Kentucky, where the state legislature beefed up rules on access to trainers and handling sports in the heat.

But even despite the tragedy of a teenager’s death, Stinson and Gilpin didn’t turn out to be the top youth sports story of the year, or even the top youth sports-related health issue of the year. That honor goes to…

1. Concussions

No longer is a player who gets a little foggy someone who is “dinged.” From pro leagues on down, concussions — brain injuries — are being taken seriously more than they ever have. Let’s put it this way: had alleged prima donna Adam James been allegedly locked in a room by his head coach, Mike Leach, because he had a bruised sternum, Leach might be coaching Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl, being played as I type this, instead of preparing his lawsuit against the school for firing him.

Washington this year became the first state to require young athletes diagnosed with concussions to get medical clearance before returning to action, and bills regarding concussion safety have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. It’s not just football players suffering — one girl speaking out in favor of the Senate bill is a 16-year-old who quit basketball after 11 concussions. Eleven!

Concussions aren’t just a story confined to 2009. It goes to the top spot because they will be a topic of conversation and debate for years to come. Already, there’s discussion of what the future of football will be, or how long it has one, because of the prevalance of concussions.

Also, I can’t leave this topic without acknowledging the hard work of Alan Schwarz of the New York Times, who has covered concussions thoroughly for years, and might just be single-handedly responsible for this whole conversation we’re having about them. There are going to be people who literally will owe their lives to him.

David Jason Stinson: not guilty in high school football player's practice death

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A Louisville jury took only 90 minutes Thursday to come back with acquittals of former high school football coach David Jason Stinson, tried on charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment after a player, Max Gilpin, 15, collapsed during a hot August 2008 practice, then died a few days later.

I am not surprised.

I would agree with Max Gilpin’s family, who said after the trial they were glad to have his story told, and that he did not die in vain. The Stinson case, if nothing else, has caused a lot of coaches to re-examine their techniques, especially when it comes to players who are showing signs of fatigue and injury. It’s a fine line between pushing hard and too hard, and Stinson’s trial will have them thinking about where that line stands with every player. I certainly will as I coach tween-age basketball players this fall and winter.

The case, considered to the first time a coach was indicted for the practice-related death of a player, also spurred Kentucky and other states, many of which already had guidelines for practicing in the heat and handling heat-related conditions, to intensify their efforts at ensuring player safety.

The jury did not talk to reporters after the verdict, so we don’t know yet why they did not convict. Nobody knows yet if they believed testimony that surmised Gilpin was already sick, with an elevated temperature, the day of practice, and also was at a higher risk of dehydration because of his use of creatine and Adderall.

As for the prosecution, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Leland Hurlbert told the Courier-Journal he knew it would be difficult to “find a football coach guilty of a crime.”

That’s an insult to the jury.

If the state was so worried it would be difficult to convict a football coach, why didn’t it present a better case? The problem wasn’t the jury making goo-goo eyes at a football coach. The problem was that the prosecution seemed to hinge its case that only the tragedy of Max Gilpin’s death would be enough to sway a jury, because it certainly never made an airtight case that Stinson denied water and ran an unusually hard practice, the basis for the charges.

Right before the trial, the prosecution also sent signals it was in trouble by suddenly calling a grand jury to get a wanton endangerment charge — still a felony, but a weaker charge compared with reckless homicide, a way to hedge its bet that a jury would find Stinson of causing a death by giving it the option to say he merely put Max Gilpin in a position of harm. Then were was the matter of withholding 1,500 pages of evidence from the defense until the trial — evidence that the judge threw out, evidence that mostly was unfriendly to the prosecution — and then begging unsuccessfully to the judge to delay it.

Stinson isn’t out of the legal woods yet. Gilpin’s parents have a civil suit against him, the Louisville schools and others. But I wonder if the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office of Dave Stengel is out of the woods on this. Surely, someone is going to call for an investigation as to why he spent so much time and money pursuing a fruitless case. It would be a stretch to lump Stengel in with disgraced, disbarred Duke lacrosse rape case prosecutor Mike Nifong. But when you have a high-profile bomb, people are going to ask questions about why you lobbed it.

Written by rkcookjr

September 17, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Kentucky football coach's reckless homicide trial set to begin

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player-thumbAs I write this, it’s the night before the Aug. 31 Louisville, Ky., trial of former Pleasure Ridge Park High football coach David Jason Stinson. He is charged with reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the practice-related death last year of one his players, Max Gilpin, 15. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is the first time anyone knows of that a coach has been indicted for the death of a player under his charge for something that happened in a practice or game.

I’ve also said this before, and I’ll say it again: I would be shocked if Stinson gets convicted.

The Jefferson County prosecutor got a grand jury indictment on the reckless homicide charge in January, and he recently added wanton endangerment, another felony, in the last month. Reckless homicide means Stinson’s actions caused a death. Wanton endangerment means Stinson’s actions put a person in a position of danger, which is a charge that could be brought even if someone doesn’t die. Stinson pleaded not guilty to both.

The prosecutor’s case is based mainly on witness testimony that the first-year coach ran his players hard on a day when the heat index hit 94 degrees, hard so he could, by his own statement, literally run them off the team. More importantly, witnesses testified that Stinson denied his players water — an especially key fact when a player overheats to a body temperature of 107 degrees and is declared dead three days later of septic shock.

My feeling that Stinson, no matter how much of a dick he might have been during that fateful Aug. 20, 2008, practice, will be found innocent rests on some nagging questions I have about the prosecution’s case. I’ve followed the case, talked to a Louisville defense lawyer and read court reports posted by the Louisville Courier-Journal, but I have no other special insight that leads me to this conclusion. It’s just a gut feel based on some of the nagging questions I have about the case.

Most of them surround this question: why was no autopsy ever performed? And if it were performed, would septic shock still be declared the cause of death? An autopsy might have explained why Gilpin died, and why the worst that happened to the rest of the team was one other player spending two days in the hospital for overheating.

n1604648107_131547_4523One of the big guns Stinson’s defense is pulling out is former Kentucky medical examiner George Nichols, who said he believes Gilpin’s overheating was due not to a lack of water but to Adderall, an ADHD drug that contains an amphetamine that can cause overheating. Plus, Gilpin’s father, Jeff, admitted his son has used creatine, which can cause overheating, though Jeff Gilpin said his son stopped using it a month before practice. Furthermore, in a deposition for his (and Gilpin’s mother’s) civil lawsuits regarding the player’s death, Max Gilpin’s father testified he did not hear Stinson or any other coach deny players water.

All of these things, in a case predicated on Gilpin being reckless because he denied players water, don’t look good for the prosecution.

Neither do a few other recent developments:

— The addition of the wanton endangerment charge. That’s an indication the prosecution is starting to worry that it can’t get a conviction for reckless homicide (actually causing the death) and wants to hedge itself in a high-profile case with something that seems more easily provable (putting someone in a position of danger).

— The defense just receiving the county coroner’s report declaring Gilpin’s death “accidental.” The prosecuting attorney’s office is defending  turning over that report only at the end of last week, saying it also only just received it. Stinson’s defense team took the opportunity to respond that not only did the coroner call Gilpin’s death an accident, but also that the prosecution’s usual expert in these matters also said Adderall was the contributing factor. (The prosecution said there wasn’t scientific evidence to back up that contention.)

By the way, my idiot self isn’t the only one saying Stinson stands a good chance of going free. Nine criminal-law specialists interviewed by the Courier-Journal say the same thing. From the Courier-Journal:

Regardless of the trial’s result, Stinson’s prosecution is likely to make coaches more cautious in pushing players on hot summer days, athletic trainers and lawyers say. But persuading the jury to convict the coach will be difficult, legal experts say. …

If the experts can’t agree on what killed Max, the legal authorities say, then the defense will have a much easier time persuading the jury that it can’t be certain that Stinson is criminally responsible for his player’s death.

The lawyers — four of them former prosecutors — also say it will be difficult to prove that Stinson ignored an “ “unjustifiable risk of death” — a required element of reckless homicide — given there were no other deaths among the thousands of other student-athletes who practiced that same afternoon in Jefferson County.

“There is a theory that if the prosecution needs to rely on an expert at all, it loses,” said former federal prosecutor Kent Wicker. “If there is a dispute between experts, that’s a strong argument for reasonable doubt.”

The lawyers — four of them former prosecutors — also say it will be difficult to prove that Stinson ignored an “unjustifiable risk of death” — a required element of reckless homicide — given there were no other deaths among the thousands of other student-athletes who practiced that same afternoon in Jefferson County.

“The classic example of reckless homicide is firing a gun into a crowded building and killing somebody,” said defense lawyer Steve Romines of Louisville. “Having kids run wind sprints doesn’t equate to that.”

It can be argued that if Stinson’s indictment only makes coaches (including the ones helping to fund his legal defense) more aware of their players’ welfare during practice, and keeps them from going overboard into Junction Boys-style excesses, then something positive has come out of this. Kentucky’s legislature this year mandated that all 12,000 high school coaches take courses in heat safety. If Stinson ever coaches again, you can be sure (if he has any brain cells at all) that he’ll back off some of the tough-guy schtick that suddenly looks bad when said in the presence of a court stenographer.

However, as tragic as Gilpin’s death is, and as awful as his parents must feel trying to make sense of it and find some way to make it whole, it also is awful if a Stinson had to suffer through this grind for no reason. I predict that not only will Stinson be found innocent, but that prosecuting attorney R. David Stengel — who himself used the comparison of shooting into a crowded building to justify the indictment, and who backed away from charges against another scandal-scarred coach, Louisville’s Rick Pitino — is going to have a lot of explaining to do.

After a player's death, taking heat more seriously

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player-thumbLast Aug. 20, on an afternoon in which the heat index reached 94, 15-year-old Max Gilpin (right) collapsed with a 107-degree temperature after running sprints at the end of a preseason high school football practice in Louisville, Ky. Three days later, he died.

This was rare, this was tragic, but this was not unheard of. According to a report compiled for the American Football Coaches Association, there were 114 heat stroke-related deaths at all levels of football from 1960 to 2007. What’s most notable about Gilpin’s death is what happened to the coach, Jason Stinson of Pleasure Ridge Park High, who ordered him to run those gassers. Stinson, later relieved of his coaching duties, goes on trial Aug. 31 on a criminal charge of reckless homicide. He is believed to be the first coach indicted because of a player’s death in practice. (Stinson, some assistants and administrators, and Louisville’s school district are being sued by Gilpin’s divorced parents.)

Sad to say, it’s not Gilpin’s death that has suddenly has brought out a lot of worry about making sure players can handle heat, including today’s release of guidelines from the National Athletic Trainers Association designed to ease players into shape during the heat through limits on first-days practices, rather than whipping them into shape right away. It’s the possibility Stinson could be serving hard time — and that the principals, superintendents and, yes, trainers, are going to get dragged down in their wake. That’s why football coaching associations are prominent on the list of contributors to a legal defense fund for Stinson.

Most state high school athletic associations, including Kentucky’s, eevn before Gilpin’s death had standards on handling heat, including recommendations on water breaks. (A key part of the Stinson case is whether the coach refused his players water breaks the day Gilpin collapsed.)

But after Gilpin, in many states those standards are being re-examined. Meanwhile, in Kentucky it’s now state law that at least one person attending a high school practice or game must have completed a 10-hour course on handling emergencies, including heat stroke.

It might look unseemly and disrespectful that football coaching associations are prominent on the list of contributors to a legal defense fund for Stinson. Surely, they have self-preservation in mind. On the other hand, any youth coach is now going to be worried, rightfully, that they will be held liable for anything untoward that happens under their watch. What happens if I’m coaching one of my kids’ basketball teams, and someone collapses? Is it my fault? I don’t run my practices like Bear Bryant’s infamous Junction Boys camp.

But if Stinson gets convicted, I could face the very real risk of being charged myself if something horrible happened on my watch. After all, aren’t I supposed to know my players’ medical condition, or how hard I should push them? You know how many times I’ve gotten medical information on kids in four years of coaching? Zero.

That’s probably not going to happen, whatever Stinson’s fate. Though it’s not helping Stinson’s case that his old employer, the Jefferson County Public Schools, appears to be stonewalling the prosecution by being excruciatingly slow in turning over its own report on Gilpin’s death. (The school district collected the health forms for Gilpin, and would have been the ones to tell Stinson that he was taking Adderall, which can accelerate dehydration. However, it would not have known about Gilpin’s use of creatine, which also can accelerate dehydration.)

Actually, I highly doubt Stinson will get convicted. Just a hunch. But if nothing else, the threat of Stinson’s conviction — much more than Max Gilpin’s death — will get coaches and administrators to take a closer look at making sure that everyone is wiser in the heat.

As the Stinson turns (big break for the defense edition)

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player-thumbIt’s a shame that Max Gilpin, the 15-year-old who died after a football practice last August in Louisville, Ky., is growing more and more of a footnote in the aftermath of his demise. But that’s how it goes when stuff like this happens.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

A Bullitt County circuit judge this morning [Tuesday] issued a domestic violence order against Jeffery Dean Gilpin, the father of the Pleasure Ridge Park football player who died after he collapsed at a practice.

During a court hearing, Gilpin’s wife, Lois Louise Gilpin, alleged that her husband had been abusive in the past and had recently threatened harm if she did anything to “dishonor” her stepson, Max Gilpin, who died at a practice on Aug. 23.

Jeff Gilpin, represented by attorneys, denied the allegations.

Nevertheless, Judge Elise Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin to avoid all contact with his wife and to enter anger counseling, along with grief counseling. The pair plan to divorce, they said.

“I’m very sorry you lost your child,” Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin. “You need to try to salvage your life. You don’t want to live in a sea of anger.”

Gilpin already has one ex-wife: Max’s mother, who is joining him in filing a civil lawsuit against former coach David Jason Stinson, as well as other coaches and the Louisville school district. They filed on the basis of wrongful death, saying Stinson denied water to players and pushed them too hard on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees.

But what really made Max Gilpin’s case stand out is that Stinson is facing an August court date after a grand jury indicted him on reckless homicide charges as a result of the player’s death.

Presumably, Jeff Gilpin’s home life shouldn’ t have anything to do with Stinson’s guilt or innocence. But for sure Stinson’s lawyers will be poring through his divorce filings (if they haven’t already) looking for anything they can use. Already, Jeff Gilpin did them a favor during his civil trial deposition by saying he wasn’t sure that Stinson denied anyone water — a key fact on which the civil and criminal cases turn.

Stinson’s attorneys are going to be especially aggressive not only because they have a client to defend, but also because they know (thanks to the contributions they’re receiving from coaches nationwide) that Stinson’s guilt or innocence is going to have a profound effect on coaches’ authority. Especially their authority to inflict physical punishment like “gassers,” the sprint drills Stinson was alleged to have his players run because of a perceived lack of hustle, a coaching technique as old as coaching itself. With that at stake, and with his father’s personal foibles coming into the spotlight, it’s unfortunate Max Gilpin himself is more and more of an afterthought and symbol than a boy who died tragically.