Ricky Sargent, a football and track coach in Hempstead, Texas, was fired last week for leaving two seniors behind at a restaurant for about an hour, at night, after they misbehaved and refused to get back on the team bus.
The young men were acting up on their way back from a meet, and as a punishment they were told they wouldn’t be allowed off the bus to eat. But eventually they DID get off — and then refused to get back on. The adult or adults with the team at the time called Coach Sargent, who okayed the decision to leave the troublemakers behind, saying he’d come by to sit with them himself until their parents came to pick them up.
Which he did.
And for which he was fired.
Now, clearly, this was a breach of conduct on the coach’s part. But it certainly sounds like it was also a breach on the part of the young men who, as seniors, I can’t bring myself to call “kids.” If they are 17, they’re old enough to drive. If they are 18, they are old enough to go to war. But they’re not old enough to wait for an hour at a restaurant for their parents to come pick them up?
I fear that the reason the coach was fired was not just that his behavior was legally dicey, but that as a culture we believe that anytime minors are not directly supervised by adults, they are in mortal peril. But they’re not. And in this case, the students were at a restaurant, with a coach quickly by their side, and parents headed over to get them.
We’ve bemoaned the death of common sense here before. This is the death of a couple of other things, too. It’s the death of any faith that our kids can be safe on their own. It’s also the death of a certain kind of faith in our kids — faith that they can roll with some punches, and even learn from cold water splashed in their face. I’m not one for an eye for an eye, but letting young people experience real consequences for their behavior — even slightly improvised, imperfect consequences — does not strike me as evil. It strikes me as wanting our kids to do better, and believing that they can.
What will the young men learn from this experience? Maybe it’s that they can get away with their antics. Maybe it’s that they were injured and aggrieved. But just maybe it will be that they’ve lost a coach who did nothing worse than think that, when forced to handle themselves in an unfamiliar situation, they’d rise to the occasion.
That’s the kind of coach I’d want for my kids. – L.
BUT BUT BUT! — Here’s an update! And I don’t want to spoil the suprise but: Woot!