FanDuel - WFBC

January 26, 2009

Coach Indicted in Teen Athlete's Heat Exhaustion Death: Kentucky high school football coach Jason Stinson has been indicted for reckless homicide by a grand jury after one of his players died following practice. Max Gilpin, 15, collapsed during an Aug. 20 summer practice and died three days later. Coach Stinson allegedly denied players water as they ran "gasser" sprints repeatedly until one player volunteered to quit the team. "The coach [said] numerous times that all he needed was one person to say that they quit the team and all of the suffering and running and heat would be over," said a parent who observed the practice.

posted by rcade to football at 01:48 PM - 17 comments

That's one of the most irresponsible things I've heard in a long time. It just sounds like some kind of macho bullshit toughness/character routine. I really hope this isn't the case, but if so - that strikes me as clearly criminal behaviour.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:43 PM on January 26

That's one of the most irresponsible things I've heard in a long time.

What I want to know is why the latter comments (from the 2nd linked article) aren't really referenced in the original article? I read a similar AP report on this and I was siding with the coach based on that article thinking "how can someone sue for an accident like this?" thinking it was just an unfortunate accident where a guy got overheated in a tough practice. But that AP article didn't mention anything about "forcing them to run until somebody quit". That paints a completely different portrait of the coach in that circumstance. As Weedy says..completely irresponsible.

As a young kid, as much as I loved football, I would have never quit in that circumstance. I also would have run until I died not even realizing I was doing it which I'm sure is what this poor kid did.

posted by bdaddy at 03:20 PM on January 26

Wow, I can't imagine coaching with a "all I need is one of you to quit..." mentality.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, it that is true, this man does not need to be coaching.

posted by dviking at 03:21 PM on January 26

That coach probably got his idea from U.S. Navy Seal training. Until a few years ago (and possibly still), at one point during training recruits were subjected to increasing levels of abuse, with no rest or food, until one of them quit the program by dramatically ringing a ceremonial bell. This made some sense for training Seals. It makes no sense for training high school (or any other) football players. If reports are accurate, that coach bears full responsibility for his player's death. That said, I wonder why no parent-observer ( or any other observer, including an assistant coach) didn't speak up and try to stop the idiotic behavior?

posted by kajajamon at 05:29 PM on January 26

What an outrage! Having played organized football under many different coaches in my younger years this is inexcusable! This "coach" can express his distress over the outcome until the cows come home and it doesn't change the result......his stupidity and lack of common sense caused the death of this young man. The only thing he got correct in this entire matter was his admission that he will have to "live with this for the rest of my life."

posted by jthorpe611 at 10:23 PM on January 26

The coach shouldn't be coaching, obviously- classic overblown machismo is not what should be guiding these people. And it's distressing how easily the kids internalize "The Wave" kind of high school sports fascism. I noticed in the first linked article they quote a former student saying "Coach is amazing," former player Casey Ford told WLKY. "Coach truly cares about his players.". "Coach"? Ugh. Call him by his name, Casey Ford, you're both adults now.

I normally would say the coach, while an absolute douchebag and a horrible football coach, isn't criminally responsible: he wasn't forcing the kids to do this in one sense- preventing them from leaving- nor preventing them from getting water: they always could quit (and apparently one did). If my boss made me do gassers, I'd tell him to fuck off. On the other hand, I'm an adult while these were sophomores, and while I disagree with it as a principle so long as in loco parentis is a rule in schools allowing them to treat kids as if they have no constitutional rights, then the schools and the school faculty should also be saddled with the burden of making sure the kids are healthy. You don't get the fun of strip searching nubile high school girls without also taking full legal responsibility for the students as well when things go wrong.

The fact that one kid collapsed (and also required hospitalization) should have ended the practice immediately, and not continued for 15 more minutes before Max Gilpin collapsed during the post-practice meeting. However, the in loco parentis loses any weight when the actual parentis- Max Gilpin's father- was sitting in the stands watching the practice for two hours before his son collapsed. I'd say the father could be charged with negligent homicide as much as the coach- his own kid was right there, needing help and protection, and dad was apparently too involved with reliving his own high school glory days vicariously to intervene.

I guess my feelings are that

  1. this was a tragedy
  2. the coach should never coach again
  3. this school and others around the country should, again, seriously ask what the fuck is so damned important about high school football that kids are pushed so hard to begin with, and
  4. no one is guilty of negligent homicide, but the school and coach perhaps should face some civil penalties, ameliorated by the fact that again, the father was watching from the stands the whole time.

posted by hincandenza at 10:36 PM on January 26

There's not much top say about this that hasn't been said, but I'll just say you can push kids, but to think that not letting them stay hydrated is not only stupid, but definitely borders on criminal. In barely related news

posted by sfts2 at 01:10 AM on January 27

"said a parent who observed the practice"

but clearly didn't have the balls or intelligence to say anything about how fucking stupid this was.

Some kid had to die because of this coach being an arse.

Negligent homicide sounds entirely fair to me. He did something known, by anyone with a brain at least, to be dangerous. Depriving them of water. I mean really, about the only way he could have done anything worse is to just hand the kids a knife and say "Last one standing makes the team".

Negligent homicide for sure. Dumb as a fucking box of hair? Yes. But being dumb does not mean you shouldn't be sent to jail for killing someone with your deliberate and pre-planned negligence.

posted by Drood at 02:08 AM on January 27

We used to run "hills" until someone puked (that would end the practice). But it was usually because we were forced to drink water repeatedly. Especially in August. What an idiot, ignorant coach.

posted by BoKnows at 02:44 AM on January 27

I've run hills before in team practice, so some grueling drills are not unheard of or criminal. And, I can understand the Navy SEAL mentality, which I'm guessing is partially imposed because more individuals "try out" for that unit than can be accepted, so this kind of extreme pressure weeds out one or more of the unfit ("unfit" relative to others also trying to become a SEAL). But, is anyone able to explain to me the effin' mentality of doing this to high school kids (or even professionals)? This wasn't a drill to ONLY build stamina. What positive result comes from running the team until someone quits (anyone ... not a particularly weak someone, mind you, who the coach is targeting ... just anyone)? I was with bdaddy - originally thinking, "wow, this is really horrible for the kid's family - why take legal action and make things worse for the school, community and coach?" But, to run this drill with the express purpose of debilitating the players into quitting, and then keep the drill going after one kid collapses is beyond stupid (clearly, quitting the DRILL wasn't enough for this idiot coach - he needed someone to quit the TEAM). I feel for the coach's family. They're caught up in the coach's machismo, which in part (like Hal's #3 above) needs to be revisited as a society. And, I also still feel horribly for the kids family. But, as others have stated, my sympathy for the father only goes so far. For pete's sake, the father of a girl's soccer team complained to the school about the ridiculousness of the football team's practice, before the kid died. So, an otherwise uninvolved parent had enough sense to speak up, but the dads and grandpas watching their boys go through this couldn't think to say anything? Here's my long-winded punchline : There was clear intent to do harm here. Granted, I'm sure the coach wasn't looking for someone to die. But, there was clear intent, I'm going to make someone so miserable that they quit. Stupid, irresponsible, and even criminally negligent aren't strong enough words for this kind of behavior.

posted by littleLebowski at 07:34 AM on January 27

We used to run "hills" until someone puked (that would end the practice). But it was usually because we were forced to drink water repeatedly.

Yea, Cross country in the Georgia summer heat is teh suck. Running miles of hills, interval workouts, and "Jesus Saves" runs were all recipes for feeling like death had come (or in the later case, that was the intent).

posted by jmd82 at 10:46 AM on January 27

Drood:

"said a parent who observed the practice"

but clearly didn't have the balls or intelligence to say anything about how fucking stupid this was.

It's a bad soundbite (sorry rcade) -- if you read the article, it was a parent of an athlete on the girls' soccer team, which was practicing on an adjacent field. The parent in question didn't have a kid on the football team, so it's perhaps a bit more understandable. And certainly, if you would expect a casual bystander to have the "balls or intelligence to say anything about how fuckiing stupid this was", you'd expect every member of the coaching staff to know how fucking stupid it was, and not let the situation happen in the first place. But in any case, you expect an adult to exhibit common sense and put a stop to it. You can't expect the players themselves to necessarily exhibit that sort of judgment. As bdaddy said:

As a young kid, as much as I loved football, I would have never quit in that circumstance. I also would have run until I died not even realizing I was doing it which I'm sure is what this poor kid did.

Yup. The kid has been told to trust these adults, who have been telling him all along to dig deep, that he can do more than he thinks he can do. That's not a bad thing to do in coaching, but a coach needs to realize that once young athletes have learned the lessons of how to keep going, they usually take a longer time to learn when to stop. In that interval, you have to tell them.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:28 PM on January 27

In this case, the prosecutor doesn't need to show intent. KRS 507.050 says that reckless homicide occurs when someone "with recklessness causes another person's death." The State really only needs to show that the coach was aware of the effects of dehydration and heat stroke, knew of the potential for his players to suffer these, and continued practice after at least one other person collapsed. If the heat strike is proven by doctors to be the direct cause of death, he's guilty. Whether you think the coach is negligent or not is a different matter for a jury. This is a pretty clear black and white criminal offense that a good prosecutor should be able to get a conviction out of. And I hope he does, 'cuz being stupid shouldn't get you a free pass, and remorse isn't a get out of jail free card.

posted by tahoemoj at 12:31 PM on January 27

The thing that gets me about this death is that the problem of athletes dying from heat stroke is not uncommon. It happens several times a year at the high school and college level, and even killed NFL player Korey Stringer.

How can there still be coaches who don't know the risks that must be accounted for when training football players in the heat?

posted by rcade at 02:20 PM on January 27

The coaches all know the risks. Each of them attends mandatory meetings on the subject every year, so this coach clearly knew the dangers of what he was doing. A football coach would have to be in complete denial of reality to not know the dangers of what he was doing. Hell, one kid had already collasped.

As to the father sitting in the stands and not taking action, as a father of a high school football player I see this from two angles. One, if this scenario had been occurring on a regular basis, I think the father would have an obligation to at least talk to a school official about it. If this was the first time the coach ran them like this, then I think it would be hard for the dad to speak up during the practice. To confront a coach during practice is not an easy thing to do. Sure, maybe the dad talks to an assistant that's standing off to the side, I just think it's easier said than done. I've had baseball coaches get in my face, and bench my son for a game, just because I suggested some safety minded changes to the way they conducted batting practice. I'm guessing that this coach would have reacted the same way.

posted by dviking at 02:41 PM on January 27

dviking, the "dad" in question did not have a kid on the team. He was a bystander.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:02 PM on January 27

The original article stated that Max Gilpin's father was in the stands watching the practice, he was not quoted in the story. The father that was quoted had a child on another team.

Some of the above posts were pretty hard on the Sr. Gilpin...However, the in loco parentis loses any weight when the actual parentis- Max Gilpin's father- was sitting in the stands watching the practice for two hours before his son collapsed. I'd say the father could be charged with negligent homicide as much as the coach- his own kid was right there, needing help and protection, and dad was apparently too involved with reliving his own high school glory days vicariously to intervene.

posted by dviking at 04:46 PM on January 27

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.