Failing the youth

Response to the John Jay High School football incident

More stories from Austin Mai



“If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you, too?”

Parents have posed this question countless times to their children when they cite popular opinion as the reason for just about anything.

But what if your parent, teacher or mentor jumped off the bridge? Or told you to jump off a bridge? Would you know how to autonomously react, or would you follow step and plummet into uncertainty?

According to evidence John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas compiled, two football players followed blindly and did something they can never take back.

Following “rude” behavior and two official unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against John Jay’s dual-threat quarterback/ safety that led to his ejection, two defensive players targeted the referee who made the calls in the closing minutes of a game on Sept. 4.

One player hit the referee, Robert Watts, from behind and knocked him to  the ground, while the other took steps backward and charged into the downed Watts, leading with his helmet.

When the story hit the web, the two players, Victor Rojas and Michael Moreno, made claims that Watts used extreme, offensive language and assistant coach Mack Breed said Watts “got what he deserved.”

Within days, the story was a talking point on many sports and news networks, and television personalities started to suggest that maybe the players should not be held responsible and coaches can have the ability to persuade players.

ESPN confirmed those suggestions based on evidence John Jay gathered. Breed admitted he “directed the students to make Watts pay for his racial comments and calls.”

This was after the students took to “Good Morning America” to dispel the idea that they were monsters. Both players spoke to George Stephanopoulos about the incident.

“You need to hit the ref. He needs to pay the price,” Moreno said Breed told them during the game. “I can’t explain it. I was doing what I was told.”

What’s most unfortunate about this story is not the short-term or possibly long-term damage Watts will now deal with. It’s not the respect or innocence these boys may have lost through the ordeal. It’s Breed’s abuse of power.

The core ideas behind coaching are belittled when petty grievances are handled with assault. Breed directed the students because of the playing-punishments against their team and alleged racial comments — racial comments Watts continues to deny.

Although I’ve never dealt with racial comments geared toward me, handling alleged comments by attacking the speaker is no way to effectively handle problems.

In a normal situation, players should’ve been able to report to the coach and have adminstration handle the allegations outside of the game. But when you have a hothead assistant coach who can’t handle alleged situations like an adult, situations will happen like this.

Coaches, at every level, please remember to uphold the dignity of any game you’re coaching. Regardless of how you coach, players look up to you. Don’t ruin their integrity because of your own issues.