Annual Senseless and Preventable High School Deaths


“Staten Island teen was forced to practice until he died, family claims…”


      This is just one (albeit, the most tragic) of the many problems in high school varsity sports. And sadly, this takes place multiple times every year, in different parts of the nation(this includes a huge number of non-press reported hospitalizations that don’t lead to death). In almost every case the young people expressed some form of “distress”, and are then told  some form of : “Man-UP”!  Parents are often afraid to voice their well-founded concerns out of fear of their child’s playing time being restricted or reduced; or in fear of  having their child face group humiliation (a coach once said in a speech in the locker room: “some parents are complaining to the Principal about study time, this is making you guys “soft”, as he glanced at the student (child) of the parent; the team got it.) And yet these tragic deaths are very much  preventable. Principals must “Man” and/or “Woman” up; they must take control of their athletic departments and properly supervise their Athletic Directors (AD) and  their coaches. The AD and coaches may “back-door” you, and rally  the parents, school board members, community leaders, politically driven (frightened) central district administrators; and maybe even well-meaning but, terribly misguided student team members. But the Principal must be strong and resolute. My annual speech as a principal was simple: “Wining games is nice, but that is not the focus here; we are in the business of creating winning human beings; under no condition will you do any harm to a child”. The principal must then physically show up at practices unannounced at different times and monitor if her “safety-first” directive is being followed, to the letter. The role of varsity sports is to teach the values of sportsmanship, health-fitness, good behavior, goal setting, team work and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence. It is not to feed the sometimes obsessive appetites of adults (including parents); many of whom are full of a false sense of “machismo;” and are often pathologically playing out their own failed teenage-sports experience through the children. And under no circumstance is a child’s health and safety to be compromised to win even a single game! This is the worst nightmare moment for an educator, when you are forced to tell a parent that their child is dead; and it is horrifically painful when that situation was preventable.