Corruption and Stupid Human Tricks Result in Injuries
Corruption and Stupid Human Tricks Result in Injuries
There are viral videos making their way around the Internet, showing a coach and cheerleaders at a cheerleading camp pushing down incoming freshmen into forced splits, with the girls crying and screaming in pain. The videos are difficult to watch, as the girls, surrounded by their new teammates and the recently-hired cheer coach from East High School in Denver, are forced into an extended split position.
The new cheerleading coach is apparently well-known as someone who did backflips on the field during Broncos and CU football games. He appears to be an incredible athlete – agile, quick, and flexible. He also appears to be an ignorant, abusive sack of donkey dung, who doesn’t understand that new athletes need to be trained correctly, and while a certain amount of soreness is expected from what is normally pretty brutal training, this goes above and beyond. Further, this guy Ozell Williams was apparently dismissed from yet another high school last year for doing exactly the same thing to his athletes!
[T]he owner of a gym in Brighton considered teaming up with Williams, but changed her mind after a week of watching him work with kids in her program.
“They would go to do things and if they would stop, like they would go into a tumbling pass and they would stop, and he would be like, ‘I’m going to punch you in the face if you don’t do it next time,’” Julie Ledbetter said. “… You don’t tell kids you’re going to punch them in the face if they can’t pull the skill.”
Ledbetter said that she never saw any girls forced to do the splits but she also said she never left her athletes alone with Williams.
During my college years, I did a lot of dancing in numerous musical theater roles – both at school and outside of it. Flexibility was a must, and having played tennis in high school, I was fairly flexible and athletic; heck, I’m now in my mid-40s, and I can still do a split and a heel extension with little effort. One day, I was stretching on a slippery floor, and accidentally fell into a split. My legs literally slid out from under me. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem. I was one of those freaks who could do a standing heel stretch without much effort. But because I wasn’t properly warmed up yet, I fell into a split and felt a pop as my hamstring tore.
It took weeks to get back to normal and to even sit without significant amounts of pain, so I understand what the girls in this video are feeling and why they’re screaming in agony. Doing a split is not something you just fall into. You need regular stretching and gradual progress. One would think a professional coach would understand this, but apparently Ozell Williams is either too stupid and incompetent, or too corrupt to do so.
Make no mistake – cheerleading is a sport. It’s brutal, it’s sometimes gruesome, and it’s competitive. We spent countless days driving my kid around to cheerleading competitions across the country, cringing every time she was tossed into the air like a rag doll, and hoping against hope she wouldn’t break bones, or worse, during tumbling runs. I’ve seen head and neck injuries. I’ve seen broken bones and nose bleeds during a performance; scarier yet, these tiny athletes refuse to give up. They perform with grueling injuries and pain. They’re constantly wrapped up in neoprene sleeves and wrist braces. And through all those injuries they have to smile as if they’re having the time of their lives. It was one of the most nerve-wracking times in my life, which ended when the kid was dropped during a stunt, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament, her posterior cruciate ligament, her meniscus, her medial collateral ligament, and shattering her kneecap.
Cheerleading is incredibly competitive, and coaches push their athletes into ever greater, and more dangerous stunts to compete nationwide.
It’s quite obvious to me that the school and the coach hoped this problem would just go away. It’s also clear neither the school administrators, nor this coach cared about their young athletes. They cared about the program and little else. Why else would the school have hired this man, who already had a record of harming his athletes, to coach young athletes? And why else would they not have taken immediate action against him when they obtained a copy of the video? (By the way, for your own sanity, I would urge you NOT to read the comments in this story! Some preposterous cow is claiming it’s racism, because some white lady got torqued at a black coach. I kid you not. Don’t do it!)
The videos, shot on a cell phone by two of the cheer team members, were sent anonymously to 9Wants to Know in August.
However, school administrators have had access to at least one video since June.
“I have attached a video of the forced splits she and her other team members were forced to do at cheerleading camp and practices; unless they had a doctor’s note. This is how Ally injured her leg,” Wakefield said in the June 15 email addressed to East High School Athletic Director, Lisa Porter.
“My husband and I would like to know what the administration is going to do about my daughter’s injury and how it happened,” the email continued, in part.
That’s a question Kirsten Wakefield and other parents are still asking.
Williams, East High Principal Andy Mendelsberg, Athletic Director Lisa Porter, assistant Cheer Coach Mariah Cladis and the district’s Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman have been placed on leave, and Denver Police are investigating, but you know what? That’s just not good enough!
There’s a pervasive, toxic culture in cheerleading that puts “winning” over the health and safety of young athletes – whether it’s winning cheerleading competitions, or simply being recognized as the best cheerleading squad in the state, or getting cheerleading scholarships to colleges and universities. Safety has taken a back seat to recognition and trophies, and that’s nauseating. Athletes are being sacrificed for the coaches’ glory. And a normally healthy attitude of working through the pain (normal soreness that occurs when muscles are being used harder than they’re accustomed to) has been overcome by “win at any cost – even if there’s blood on the mat.”
Coaches are pushing athletes to push themselves harder than ever, and they’re failing or refusing to recognize when that stubbornness is translating into true harm.
Athletes are an asset to their schools and their teams. For coaches to abuse them like an expendable resource is unconscionable.
When I was in basic training, we had a Soldier who was bitten by a black widow spider in a foxhole during basic rifle marksmanship. She was rushed to the hospital on base, and after being administered some anti-toxin, released to her unit. I’m not sure what happened, and whether she was given a profile for light duty, because she was in a different platoon, but I remember watching in the quad as her Drill Sergeant dropped her – not more than several hours after she returned – and forced her to do push-ups. Next thing we knew, she was unconscious, and an ambulance was picking her up. We learned later that her heart had stopped beating for 20 seconds, but they were able to revive her and return her to duty a few days later.
I remember the Drill Sergeant was terrified – not only because he harmed his troop in his zeal to transform her and his platoon into a bunch of badasses, but also because his actions put his job and possibly his career on the line. You don’t harm your Soldiers because you want to show what a badass drill instructor you are! That’s not the way it works. They’re human beings first and foremost – human beings, whom the military spends thousands of taxpayer dollars training. Harming them harms the mission, harms the troop, and harms the military.
In this case, it was quite clear that Williams was booted from two other venues for mistreating athletes – not because he is black, as some triggered snowflake claims in comments, but because he’s dangerous, and because he obviously puts his own ego and reputation as a “winning” coach above the safety and health of his athletes. He’s also apparently a liar, who inflates his resume, by claiming he’s an Olympic athlete.
But a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee said “Williams was never on any Olympic roster.”
“Nobody has ever heard of him” and there is “no record of him being invited to the Olympic Gymnastics Trials, let alone winning three ring titles,” USA Gymnastics said.
And those aren’t the only false or inflated claims on his site. Ooops!
The school leadership either didn’t do its due diligence when they hired this sociopath, or they didn’t care, because WINNING! Winning is more important than the safety of student athletes, and coaches use their so-called “successes” as stepping stones to bigger and better coaching jobs.
And that’s a real problem!