Amid multiple reports of discipline issues across their football team, the West Mesa (N.M.) High School football staff decided to nip their players' misbehavior in the bud with a set of bear crawls.
For five to seven minutes, according to head coach Anthony Ansotigue, players were required to bear crawl from one sideline to another. Midway through the exercise, players began complaining of turf so hot it was burning their hands.
“I was immediately just enraged because there should be no reason like that this should happen,” one player's parent told KRQE-TV in Albuquerque. "I looked at him and immediately I said get in the car we’re going to urgent care."
The school district confirmed the incident in a statement:
During football practice at West Mesa High School on Tuesday afternoon, players were instructed to bear crawl from one sideline to the other. This is a common exercise; however, a newly installed artificial turf on the practice field grew hot to the touch in the afternoon sun and caused blistering on the hands of some players. The coach apologized to players and their families and promised that this exercise wouldn’t occur again in warm or hot weather.
Anstoigue himself issued a lengthy explanation and apology.
“I will start out by saying that myself, nor any of my coaches are out to be mean or harm the players in any way. I am a parent, as are most of our coaches. Yesterday’s discipline was nothing cruel or unusual. Bear crawls have been around for a long time and I’m sure many of us, especially if we played football, remember them well. We have had a few discipline issues the past few days that have caused our staff and administration to bring them to my attention. I ensured them that we would take care of those issues and I apologized on behalf of the entire football program. I talked to the boys at the beginning of practice yesterday about those issues and told them that there would be ramifications for our behavior. I then instructed the boys to get on the sideline and start bear-crawling to the other sideline and back. This occurred for roughly 5-7 minutes.
"After about that 3-5 minute mark a player mentioned to me that the ground was hot. I felt the turf myself and it did feel a little hot. Never would I have thought that it was hot enough to cause blistering. I would NEVER do anything to physically harm our players. I think many of our players know that and know how all of the coaches care for them. As soon as it was brought to my attention that there were blisters starting to form on some of the boys’ hands, we stopped immediately. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done this if I had known the turf would be hot enough to cause blisters. For that, I feel very remorseful and I take full responsibility for what occured. (sic) The artificial turf that we have is brand new, I would have never thought that this would cause any issues or harm.
"I have already talked to the rest of the coaching staff, as well as our administration, to let them know that this will not occur again and we will not use this form of discipline in warm or hot weather. Once again, I am very sorry and remorseful for what has happened.”
This incident is a sad reminder of the responsibility sitting on coaches' shoulders at all times. Failing to do a simple common-sense check of the turf temperature on a hot day forces your players to live with the consequences.