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September 17, 2009

Kentucky High School Football Coach Acquitted In Player's Death: Coach David Jason Stinson was found Not Guilty on charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the death of 15-year-old Max Gilpin, one of his players at Pleasure Ridge Park High School. Gilpin, a sophomore offensive lineman, collapsed while running gassers during practice on August 20, 2008. He died three days later at Kosair Children's Hospital. The temperature that afternoon was 94 degrees. Medical personnel testified that Gilpin's body temperature was 107 degrees when he arrived at the hospital.

posted by The_Black_Hand to other at 08:03 PM - 23 comments

First, I can't believe he doesn't think he did anything wrong. Second, I hope he is never allowed to coach again.

posted by bperk at 08:20 AM on September 18

Considering he was found not guilty, he didn't do anything wrong so why wouldn't he be able to coach again?

It's a shame that Max Gilpin died but in a court of law, this coach did nothing wrong and was not at fault for the death of Gilpin.

posted by BornIcon at 08:32 AM on September 18

The boy's body temp was between 107 and 109 according to testimony. He did SOMETHING wrong. They just didn't find him liable. I think that was partly because
a) the boy was supposedly feeling bad throughout the day, as reported by even his stepmother
b) the defense introduced that the medication he was on has a side affect of raising body temp

Both of those were probably enough for the jury to conclude at least other factors lead to his death, not just the coaches action.

Regardless, he was at some fault for not providing the kids water while working them too hard (several kids vomited and became sick), and not doing anything once he collapsed (never went within 15 feet of the boy). Just not *criminally* negligent.

Perhaps our school districts have more criteria for selecting a coach then that.

posted by bdaddy at 09:38 AM on September 18

You just raised two points as to why it wasn't Coach David Jason Stinson's fault:

a) the boy was supposedly feeling bad throughout the day, as reported by even his stepmother
b) the defense introduced that the medication he was on has a side affect of raising body temp

It's a shame that the kid died but Coach Stinson was found NOT GUILTY by the court because those other factors are the reason as to why he died. There were other kids taking part in the practice and no one else died except Max Gilpin because of those two reasons.

Both of those were probably enough for the jury to conclude at least other factors lead to his death, not just the coaches action.

Which is why he was found not guilty.

posted by BornIcon at 09:48 AM on September 18

Stinson still faces a civil suit filed by Gilpin's family and was only a first-year head coach, if I recall correctly. I can't imagine he'll be coaching again any time soon, if at all.

I'm not going to argue the verdict. The jurors who had to look at Gilpin's parents throughout the trial decided not to send Stinson to prison, so they must have seen enough to give them reasonable doubt.

posted by rcade at 09:51 AM on September 18

I can't tell you how many times I threw up when I played football. Summer, preseason 2 a days are brutal. But just because the kid was throwing up would not necesarily be a reason to be real worried.

As for not allowing water. Other players on the team testified that was incorrect and they were allowed water breaks.

Yea it is very sad that the boy died. But to hold Coach Stinson liable when he was conducting a practice much the same way hundreds of HS and College coaches do every fall is just someone looking for soemone to blame.

The only fault I can find is maybe not getting a player who was on medication which could cause problems a much more intensive physical than is normally required. But that was as much the parents fault as anyone else.

posted by scottypup at 09:55 AM on September 18

But to hold Coach Stinson liable when he was conducting a practice much the same way hundreds of HS and College coaches do every fall is just someone looking for soemone to blame.

But should high school coaches be doing this at all?

posted by bperk at 10:55 AM on September 18

I am a coach for HS football. Kids get sick, Kids throw up in August cause they are not ready for camp. coaches run them and if they throw up, they get water and take a break. I know it is sad, but this happens every season . There are over 20,000highschools in the US if even half of them have a team with a 40 player average, thats 400,000 players. Every year this happens.

Its sad, but its law of averages. The coach in this situation is not to blame. football camps and 2 a-day have been happening since football started. let the coach coach.

the training staff should be aware of any preexisting health problems.

posted by Debo270 at 10:59 AM on September 18

But should high school coaches be doing this at all?

What? Putting the kids thru practice? It's done all the time, it just so happens that this kid was under the weather beforehand and was also was taking medication which elevated his body temperature.

Coaches put their players thru rigorous training regiments and this coach was no different. It doesn't change the fact that a kid died but there's no need to look for else to anyone to blame for something that no one but the kid and his parents may have known about.

the training staff should be aware of any preexisting health problems

Very true but the parents and the kid should have been the one to notify the coaching staff of any medical history that would prevent him from participating in practices or games. It's still a sad situation no matter how you look at it since a child's life was lost.

posted by BornIcon at 11:08 AM on September 18

I am a coach for HS football. Kids get sick, Kids throw up in August cause they are not ready for camp. coaches run them and if they throw up, they get water and take a break.

In this case, the coach called the kids cowards and babies for wanting water. In addition, the trainer had to buy a bottle of water for the kid when he started having trouble breathing because there weren't any. At the very least, kids were pressured not to stop for a water break. Coaches should have mandatory water breaks, not only when a kid starts vomiting. Clearly, when a a bunch of kids start vomiting, I would hope the coach could at least stop making them run gassers.

posted by bperk at 11:21 AM on September 18

I agree. water breaks are scheduled into practice and plenty of time is given to our players for water. I have given players a hard time for always wanting a water break, but rarely have i told a kid no and that is only if you have a lazy kid trying to skip out of some drills they dont like. After about a week of practice, you can pick those players out

posted by Debo270 at 11:26 AM on September 18

because those other factors are the reason as to why he died.

Those other factors CONTRIBUTED to why he died, not WHY he died. He's not getting 107 temp without being on the field, running hard, with no water breaks. The court case doesn't indicate the coach had NO responsibility in his death, just that he wasn't "criminally" responsible.

coaches run them and if they throw up, they get water and take a break.

That's the difference. In this case, he ran them, they threw up, and did NOT get water (at least this boy did not) and he ran them some more.

I played a lot of football in my life and even had to do drills where I had to roll around peoples vomit, etc...and the one thing that was consistent in my practices is that VOMITING was the indicator to the coaches that the guy was at his breaking point. When players started to vomit, coaches knew to pull back (whether it means let them rest a bit, get some water, etc.). So no one is saying that vomiting doesn't happen, just that when it does start to happen (especially to several kids as is the case here) this coach should have pulled back the reigns.

The only fault I can find is maybe not getting a player who was on medication which could cause problems a much more intensive physical than is normally required.

Far too much emphasis is made on the medication, IMO. Thousands of kids are on this same medication and their bodies don't overheat. Certainly it's not prevalent enough where the parents or even a doctor would order a more intensive physical, as a result of its use. It's one of the listed potential side-affects and the defense jumped all over it, enough to cast a reasonable doubt in the juries minds.

posted by bdaddy at 11:36 AM on September 18

In this case, the coach called the kids cowards and babies for wanting water

That's doesn't mean that the coach was responsible for the kid dying. Coaches have called kids much worse in situations where it sounds as if the players are complaining due to practicing nonstop.

I've personally heard things like that happen when I played sports with the coach calling kids soft, that they're mama's boys, they need to get their moms tits out of their mouths and be a man, things like that and even worse. I heard a coach call a teammate of mines a p*ssy one time and that actually lit a fire under him that he played great the rest of the game and for the entire season.

Coaches have a tendacy of knowing who to pat on the back and who's ass they need to kick in order for that player to listen but that takes time and this was his first year as the head coach. This isn't the first time that a coach pushed their players to the limit but the first time that I heard of a kid dying but it just doesn't seem as if it was the coach's fault for what happened to Max Gilpin.

Far too much emphasis is made on the medication...Thousands of kids are on this same medication and their bodies don't overheat...It's one of the listed potential side-affects and the defense jumped all over it, enough to cast a reasonable doubt in the juries minds.

But not everyone responds to certain medications the same way. Some people may get nauseous, other may grow fatigue. Not everyone reacts the same way as was in this case with Gilpin's medication since his body temperature rose due to the medication combined with him practicing.

The side-affects were clearly listed on the medication that Gilpin was taking that it can cause his body to over-heat so why wouldn't that cause reasonable doubt? It's clear that the medication produced the side-affect that was listed which caused his body temperature to rise the magnitude it did and caused his death.

posted by BornIcon at 11:41 AM on September 18

I heard a coach call a teammate of mines a p*ssy one time and that actually lit a fire under him that he played great the rest of the game and for the entire season.

I had a coach call me a p*ssy once when I got a stinger during a game. My arm was completely dead/numb so I came out, 2 plays later it went away and I asked to go back in and he told me I need to stop being a p*ssy.

The next season when I BROKE my collarbone during practice I didn't tell anyone about it because I thought the pain may go away in a few minutes and didn't want him to think I was being a p*ssy again. I went through that full practice in excruciating pain, including him having me keep repeating a drill where I led with my broken shoulder into a lineman coming to block me because I wasn't hitting hard enough (because my collarbone was broke!)

At the end of practice, when I couldn't bear the thought of running gassers the way my shoulder hurt, I went to the trainer and told him my shoulder hurt, he felt my clavicle and said "When did you do this?", I said "beginning of practice", and he said "GET IN MY OFFICE RIGHT NOW!".

Long story, but point is...kids don't know what's best for them. They can and are heavily influenced by their coaches. It's their coaches responsibility to take care of them, first and foremost. The coach failed in this instance.

It's clear that the medication produced the side-affect that was listed which caused his body temperature to rise the magnitude it did and caused his death.

No, that's not clear at all. It's clear that it COULD have done that. It's also highly possible the medication had nothing to do with it and the kid overheated because his coach refused to give him water. Point was, the jury couldn't say, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it was the latter. That doesn't mean the latter wasn't the actual cause.

posted by bdaddy at 12:30 PM on September 18

Oh stop! You're just being a p*ssy, man up!

/runs away from a verbal war in shame

I kid.

posted by BornIcon at 12:43 PM on September 18

Man, if I wasn't glad before that I didn't play HS sports I sure am now. ROUTINE vomiting? Yeah, no thanks.

posted by josher71 at 02:10 PM on September 18

Oh stop! You're just being a p*ssy, man up!

[bdaddy runs back into the game, broken collarbone and all] :-)

posted by bdaddy at 02:14 PM on September 18

As Charles Dickens once wrote, "The law, sir, she is an ass." The defense did a good job covering the obvious facts of pure stupidity and ignorance on the coach's part. Unfortunately, stupidity is not a crime. I don't know how Kentucky law works, but generally the standards of proof in a civil case are not as stringent as in a criminal case. Thus, I have hope that Gilpin's family will prevail.

I think that the school should come into at least a small share of the blame. Why do they allow someone who has no idea of the medical importance of proper hydration to coach a sport? Is there no standard of qualification here? Further, the coach and trainers should be aware of any player who is taking medication for any reason, and should make allowances for same. Are not players who are trying out for the team required to fill out a medical history form and obtain a physicians statement of their fitness for playing the sport? This is a requirement here in the NH city in which I live, and the player's physician must sign off on the form and list any known medical conditions and medications.

posted by Howard_T at 02:42 PM on September 18

I would really appreciate a little common sense introduced to some High School Football programs. There seems to be a distinct lack of it at times.

Not guilty, ok - I sincerely don't think the coach intended to cause anyone to die, he's not evil - but these incidents are too frequent. At what point do we stop and realize that this is high school?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:55 PM on September 18

This kid's death is part of the culture of football, which seeks to break down the individual so they can be units in a team. For most positions, improvisation is valued less than repetition and predictability. Players are modules more than in most sports. Fine -- that's the game -- but to produce that culture you need to (like the Army does, say, with its similar goals), you need to break down the individual to raise up the unit. Part of that breaking down is the hypermasculinity, the full-pad practices, the full-contact drills, and being yelled at and called "pussies" a lot. I don't think most other sports are like this.

posted by rumple at 12:15 AM on September 19

The coach was found not guilty on the charges brought, but clearly he was negligent on numerous levels. I would guess that will be the gist of the civil suit.

To continue to run boys (yes, boys, not grown men, it would be different in the Marines) after several are puking is beyond what common sense would dictate. The coach was going overboard, and I'll bet he never had to endure such punishment when he was in high school. I played HS football, and I've coached numerous sports, never have I witnessed this level of excessive behavior. the fact that he coach doesn't seem to grasp how his actions contributed to the death of one of his players scares me. Somehow, I do think that if he does coach again, he'll let up if a kid vomits.

posted by dviking at 01:06 AM on September 19

[bdaddy runs back into the game, broken collarbone and all] :-)

That's right, that's the way to show you have Grape Nuts.

On a more serious note, the coaches actions isn't what lead to Max Gilpin's death, it was a combination if him being under the weather prior to the practice and the medication he was taking and not telling the coaches he was taking medication so that they would be aware of the situation so that they can monitor it. The courts heard from both the prosecution and the defense and the verdict came back not guilty, that alone should speak volume.

posted by BornIcon at 07:53 AM on September 19

BI, what year did you finish medical school, and where did you get your training in forensic science?

Obviously, there were many factors that contributed to Max Gilpin's death. Quite possibly the medication, quite possibly the fact that he wasn't feeling 100% prior to practice, quite possibly the fact that the coach continued to force Max to run after several kids were vomiting. Most likely a combination of the three. However, since there are almost zero deaths reported from other kids that take that medication and play in sports, one might tend to believe that the over-zealous coaching played a major role. As I said earlier, the coach was found not guilty on the charges brought, but that doesn't mean that he wasn't negligent in any manner.

Keeping in mind, or course, that just because a jury came back with a "not guilty" verdict by no means indicates that a person was not at fault. It only means that the defense was successful in planting some degree of reasonable doubt. Or, that the prosecution was not very good at establishing definitively that the defendant was guilty. OJ Simpson is a classic example of both of those situtaions. Not saying this case rises to that level. In this case I would tend to guess that since it can't be proven one way or the other, the jury probably felt that the coach wasn't trying to kill the kid, so they ruled the way they did. If lesser charges had been brought (not a lawyer, so not sure on this, but something like "criminal negligence" seems to fit) perhaps they would have found him guilty on those charges. Again, we'll probably see all that in the civil trial.

posted by dviking at 10:35 AM on September 19

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