No staff member, student, or parent should feel threatened or endangered by the activities or athletics within the school. The dispute between head football coach Arnold Martinez and team parents demonstrated that the situation was beyond their control. The meeting with parents and players was meant to discuss moving some junior varsity members up to the varsity level. A confrontation between Coach Martinez and a parent, which triggered the cancellation of the remainder of the football season at the hands of administration, raised questions about the safety of both students and staff. Principal Justin Mew’s decision to cancel the season was necessary to prevent additional conflicts, which would have continued to put more people in danger.
The safety and well-being of students and athletes should always be the top priority. Moving JV players up to the varsity level in order to have enough students to compete does not meet that criteria. Bumping up athletes to an entirely different caliber of play increases their risk of injury, a reason that left Coach Martinez reluctant to do so.
For a program to be successful, some structure or form of organization is necessary for the team to function. While adjusting to administrative changes is often difficult, players are expected to abide by the rules of their coach irrespective of how inexperienced or experienced the coach may be. Coach Martinez was heavily criticized for requiring players to attend tryouts and pre-season practices during the summer. As a result of not attending these practices, many players were frustrated and angered upon hearing that they weren’t allowed to play on the team.
Not only was this stated in the team policy, but it was also communicated through reminders sent via the school’s email newsletter. The structured nature of Coach Martinez’s coaching was intentional as the Kaiser administration was looking for a way to create a self-sustaining, organized football program. Pre-season practices are necessary to ensure that players bond, instill teamwork, and understand the plays and each player’s role. By neglecting these practices, players jeopardize the team’s success because of their lack of experience and in game knowledge. It is much too late to develop strategies and practice just a month or a few weeks before the season starts.
Ending the season was the only way to move forward without putting any more students or staff at risk. Although the decision disappointed many at school and around the community, continuing the season would have equated to compromising the safety of students and staff.
Band members were witnesses to varsity football players leaving the gym in tears. At a private meeting with Principal Justin Mew and head football coach Arnold Martinez, players were informed of the administration’s decision to cancel the remainder of the football season in order to “protect [their] health and well-being.” The decision left varsity players in disbelief with many rejecting the decision.
To many players, football is more than just a sport. Many players had been playing since their childhood and cite it as something that taught them commitment, resilience, and the desire to do one’s best. Senior Joaquin Tafao believes that football is even more than that. He says that, “When I put on the jersey, it’s go time. I represent myself, my family, the school, the players around me.” Football has always been a sport that the student body and the community has rallied behind. The sport itself and the support surrounding it is a visible, tangible sign of school spirit. Thus, removing something of this scale affects more than just the players on the team.
Seniors wanting to play collegiate football are at a serious disadvantage. Because of the abrupt halt to the season, any hopes of an athletic scholarship were dashed. College scouts can’t recruit players if there aren’t even any games for them to see. In the long run, this decision not only affects many athletes’ future, but it may have even jeopardized it entirely.
Many players felt the initial problem started this year when Martinez wanted to change the football program by strictly enforcing policy. Some varsity players were fed up with Martinez’s insistence on structure and left the team. His “all in or all out” approach frustrated many students. The team members were unable to adapt to such an abrupt change in coaching method. At the same time, Martinez’s inability to understand that his policy conflicted with Kaiser’s laidback football culture was a major source of contention from players.
In situations like this one, early action is a must. If Kaiser’s administration had decided to move JV up to varsity sooner or mediated the situation, parent conflicts could have been avoided. They should not have let the problem escalate to the point it did. Although protecting both the faculty and students’ well-being is a priority, cancelling the season resulted in many missed opportunities and broken dreams for the athletes. By simply cutting the whole season short, everyone loses.