It was quite the spectacle at the Amphitheater School Board meeting on Oct. 25. 

TV news crews, angry parents, pleading coaches, slick lawyers, stoic board members, and faux-innocent student-athletes were all there. The scene was an all-too-common one in this age of social media. Six members of the Canyon Del Oro football team — all starters — went to a party where there was alcohol being consumed. Images of several of the players drinking showed up on social media and, following district policy, they were dismissed from the team. 

Before the start of the season, every member of the team and their parents signed an agreement that there would be no consumption of alcohol, tobacco or drugs during the season. 

A couple parents complained that their kids were forced to sign the agreement or they wouldn’t be allowed to play. It’s unclear what point they were trying to make. Signing and abiding by the agreement is just one of the conditions (along with showing up for practice and not being academically ineligible) for being a part of the team. Nobody forced them to play or to sign.

Some of the parents went to court and got a temporary injunction that allowed the players to participate for a couple more games, but the judge ultimately decided in favor of the district, citing the signed agreements.

As a coach, it’s been my policy that if I find out that one of my players has violated the policy, his or her season is over. I’m sorry, in life, you gotta give something to get something. To be a high school athlete, with all the accolades and physical and mental benefits that go along with it, you have to agree not to be a selfish knucklehead. Seems like a good deal to me.

Fortunately, I’ve only had to deal with one kid in all my years. The kid (then a sophomore) came to me and admitted it. I told her that she wasn’t banished from my life or even from the team. She could practice with the team the rest of the season, but she couldn’t travel with the team, nor would she be allowed to suit up or play in a game. Bless her heart, she agreed to the terms, served out her punishment, and came back and started for me as a junior and senior.

She was a great kid, one who did something wrong and accepted the (apparently, for some, archaic) notion that actions have consequences. Her parents were great about it, too. They didn’t go to the headmaster (it was a private school) to talk about how much money they paid to have the girl attend the school. She went on to become a great adult. She’s now a medical doctor living back east.

Because the issue was not on the agenda, board members were not required to respond to the parents’ statements or to take up the policy at any time. (If the matter is going to be addressed at all, the time to do it is in the summer so that any potential change doesn’t affect some sports, but not others.) The Amphi District did issue the following statement: “The district has rules and policies in place for its athletes that prohibit the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs around the clock during their sports season due to the special privileges and responsibilities which those athletes carry. Before participating in our athletic programs, all students and their parents sign an agreement that the student will comply with those rules. The district does enforce rules when violations occur to ensure that all students, staff, and our community can trust that the rules are meaningful and are applied fairly and equally.”

Parents, players, some alumni, and (sadly) coaches all argued that the players should be reinstated, saying that they have suffered enough. Everyone kept using the word “mistake.” A mistake is wearing two different color socks. This was a chosen course of action undertaken with full knowledge of the potential dire consequences.

Some bemoaned the potential loss of college scholarships, and all said that the policy, which has been in effect since 1995, should be revisited. None of the speakers offered a suggestion as to what the punishment should have been, but to hear them talk, I’m guessing that they’d figure that anywhere from running an extra lap after practice all the way up to missing a single game would be appropriate.

I can see it now. “Hey guys, we have a tough game this week, but we play Cholla next week, so you can party on Saturday.”

It was the lead story on the late news that night, with Channel 13 using this misstatement as a tagline: CDO Players Kicked Off Team for Attending Party.

Um, no.

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