High school coaches examine ways for players to stay out of trouble on road trips


Good Counsel football Coach Bob Milloy believes the incident involving five DeMatha football players in North Carolina is an isolated one. “It is not a reflection on DeMatha; they’ve been traveling all over the world for decades and they’ve never had a problem,” he says. (Preston Keres/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
September 7, 2012

A recent incident in which a handful of DeMathafootball players solicited prostitutes at a team hotel following a game in North Carolina has high school coaches whose teams regularly make overnight trips examining their own practices for preventing trouble while on the road.

Programs that regularly make such trips use multiple chaperones and bed checks to monitor players’ off-field behavior, but such methods did not prevent this past weekend’s incident, which occurred at 5 a.m. the night after the Stags’ game at Hillside, a public school in Durham.

“You have a moment of pause and say, ‘What can I do?’ ” said Glenn Farello, who coaches boys’ basketball at Paul VI Catholic, which plays in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference with DeMatha. Farello’s top-ranked team played in a tournament in South Carolina last season. “The next level is having someone posted outside the rooms and taking shifts all night. If you do that, the kids are done. They can’t do anything. They are prisoners in their rooms at that point.”

Seventh-ranked DeMatha removed five players from the team following the Sept. 1 incident. A parent of one of the players who withdrew from the Hyattsville private school said players used a call service and sneaked three prostitutes into the hotel.

DeMatha had 18 chaperones for 65 players, instituted bed checks at 1:30 a.m. and hallway sweeps after 4:30 a.m., according to a statement issued Friday by Principal Daniel McMahon on the school Web site.

“The school stands behind our coach, Elijah Brooks, his staff, the school staff who monitored the trip, and our students,” the statement read in part. “The school community is saddened and hurt by the actions of these few who do not reflect the character of the community.”

The incident is currently under investigation by the Morrisville (N.C.) Police Department, according to Stephanie Smith, a spokeswoman for the Town of Morrisville.

“I can say that there is an open investigation, but our department does not have any additional information at this time,” Smith said.

It is not unusual for high school sports teams — male and female — to take overnight trips for tournaments or showcase games, and coaches have different ways of monitoring their players while on the road.

Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy took his top-ranked football team to Nevada for a nationally televised game against Bishop Gorman (Nev.) on Aug. 24. The Falcons traveled with 50 team members and one student manager in addition to 14 coaches, the school athletic director, trainer and strength coach. Milloy also brought four chaperones, including two police officers he paid to accompany the team.

“We haven’t had an incident and I guess we’re just lucky and blessed, because kids are kids and they’re going to do something dumb,” Milloy said. “You can’t have a coach sit in front of the door all night, for God’s sake. At some point, kids have to take responsibility and go to sleep.”

Gonzaga boys’ soccer Coach Scott Waller, whose second-ranked team will travel to Denver for two games next week, said he confiscates all cell phones and laptops when his team is on the road.

It builds team camaraderie and takes away outside influences, he said. Farello also said he confiscates cell phones at night.

When the nationally ranked football team at Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) travels out of state, Coach John Rodenberg has an employee map out the trip, driving to the opposing school and planning every activity months in advance to make sure things run smoothly and the players have little free time. Rodenberg also said he has his team stay in a hotel only the night before games, and that he tries to have only two players per room.

“I schedule afternoon games because I want to get out of there,” said Rodenberg, whose team plays in Detroit at 2 p.m. Saturday. “I’m in charge of 87 players, [and] after a game things are over with. Even when you’re at home [the attitude is] it is time to go out and, quote, party. . . . You get a bunch of boys together off campus and it’s just not a good situation. We are there to play football and come home.”

But several coaches said they believe what happened with DeMatha in North Carolina is an isolated incident, and they don’t believe travel should be limited.

“It is not a reflection on DeMatha; they’ve been traveling all over the world for decades and they’ve never had a problem,” Milloy said.

But the incident is likely to cause at least some coaches to adopt new practices — whatever those may be.

“What [DeMatha] had in place sounds very logical,” Farello said. “But if kids are going to keep finding a way to get around the system, I guess the system has to change to find a way to stay in front.”

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