Lakeridge High softball coach put on administrative leave
Head varsity coach Mike McCormack has been suspended for two weeks following allegations that he gave energy drinks to players
Lakeridge varsity softball coach Mike McCormack has been suspended and placed on administrative leave for two weeks after reportedly giving team members an energy drink before a game on Monday.
Parents of team members say McCormack insisted that players drink Isagenix e+, an energy booster similar to the more popular 5-Hour Energy, and that some of the girls got sick. Others say he only offered the drink and did not push it on the players, and that no one got sick.
McCormack said he would never do anything harmful to the players. I love these girls more than anything, he told The Review on Thursday.
District officials declined to comment Wednesday, citing personnel policies. But Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele did send a brief email to softball players and parents.
We respectfully ask for your understanding that we are unable to discuss information relating to personnel matters, Schiele wrote. We take great pride in our Pacer athletes and the positive way they represent our community.
Schiele said in her email that assistant coach Chris Cordts will assume responsibility for coaching the varsity team for the next two weeks. Amanda DeLancellotti will continue to coach the junior varsity squad.
The school district's code of conduct prohibits coaches from giving players "performance-enhancing drugs," but it is unclear whether that rule applies to energy drinks. No district employee shall knowingly sell, market or distribute steroid or performance-enhancing substances to kindergarten through grade 12 students with whom the employee has contact as part of employees district duties, or knowingly endorse or suggest the use of such substances, the district's policy says.
According to the Isagenix website, the drink is "infused with a host of healthy ingredients to fire up your athletic performance" and is designed for "anyone looking to increase their body's capacity to perform better under stressful circumstances."
Isagenix e+ contains about the same amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee or a 20-ounce Mountain Dew, the website says. The website also says that the e+ energy shots are marketed to people 16 and older, and that adult supervision is recommended for use with minors.
Even though the products are safe for the general healthy population, they are not intended for children," the website says. "Please consult with your health care provider to determine if this product is suitable for your entire family.
McCormack said Major League baseball players and Olympic athletes use the drink. If they can use a substance like this," he said, "then I cant see a high school student being reprimanded for it.
McCormack, who is not a teacher at the school, said Schiele told him that she had to put him on administrative leave because a parent had gone to the media with the story. He is in his second season as head coach of the Pacers, who have a 4-10 record, but did not attend practice on Tuesday.
News of the coach's suspension spread quickly through the Pacer softball family, with some parents questioning the district's decision.
Tim Neville, whose sophomore daughter is on the team, said she had a sip of the energy drink and was fine. He said he personally disagrees with the decision to suspend McCormack "I dont have a personal issue at all with the drink, Neville said. I have no concern about it whatsoever."
"But I understand what they did, he said, after reading the district's drug-free policy.
Still, other parents who asked to remain anonymous said they believe there must be more to the story, and some accused McCormack of screaming profanities at players earlier in the year.
Parent Chris Corbett said his senior and junior daughters quit after the first regular game of the season due to what they considered to be an abusive situation. The coach was yelling, screaming profanity.
Another player quit as well. But McCormack pointed out that 21 players stayed, and he said he has thousands of supporters after living in the community since 1985. He said he has sometimes cursed on the field, and says he knows he shouldnt.
Im pretty sure a lot of coaches have sworn on the field, he said. If youve ever been around athletics, youre going to get some swearing on the field. The coaches are competitive; the players are competitive.
McCormack sent an email on March 30 to parents, saying a parents email put him in his place and made him realize that he needed to adapt his coaching style to this specific team. He apologized profusely and said Friday that he has not sworn since.
I am going to coach how I coach, but it is my promise to you parents, players and administrators that the foul language has no place on the field with these girls and I am making it my number one priority that it stops now, McCormack said in the email.
He told The Review that people should be stepping away from this issue and focusing on what really matters.
Youth sports in general are about the kids, McCormack said. Adults generally get in the way, whether theyre a coach or a parent. I know adults need to be involved in high school athletics. I understand that. But the ones that really suffer from episodes like this are the kids. The kids dont have their coach for a few weeks.
"Its a sad deal for a 16-year-old kid to go through this, he said.