Hampton Bays varsity football team members were forced to forfeit their final game of the season after one of their own suffered a concussion and broken nose in a locker room incident late last month.
The boy was hit by an object, possibly a metal folding chair, during an incident following practice in which someone shut the lights in the boys locker room and players playfully started throwing objects around in the dark.
The father of the victim, a high school junior who had to undergo reconstructive surgery to repair his nose, said the incident that occurred after a team practice on October 30 was not the first time it happened this season.
“Some kid could have been killed,” said the boy’s father, whom The Press has declined to identify in order to protect the identity of the victim, a juvenile. “I don’t know the exact details of what went on in the dark. When the lights went out, things happened, and my son was injured.”
The father added that the kind of incident in which his son was injured, during which the lights are shut off and objects thrown about in the dark, happened “dozens” of times before his son got hurt. His son also told him afterward that other players had also been hit with folding chairs as well, just not in the head.
Regarding the incident in which his son was hurt, the father said the players filed into the locker room shortly after 5 p.m. following practice, and the coaching staff left the boys alone so they could change. The lights went out a short time later, and his son was struck by what he believes was a metal folding chair; his son was not certain what had hit him because it was so dark in the locker room.
Hampton Bays School District officials initially declined to explain why it forced the varsity football team to cancel its final game of the season on November 2, a decision that effectively quashed the Baymen’s hopes of making the playoffs. When first asked about the reason, Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen stated only that the game was forfeited due to an “isolated incident that revealed a pattern of behavior that we felt was unbecoming of a student athlete.”
But the victim’s father revealed last Thursday afternoon that the incident in which his son was injured was not an isolated one, adding that he thinks administrators have failed to explain to him why no coaches were around while players were horsing around after practice. He also noted that his son and the players who tended to him after his injury were unable to find anyone from the coaching staff to assist them following the incident.
“The reason it happened is because there is an ongoing, reckless violence going on with no supervision,” the father added. “The lights go out in the locker room, and when it does, it’s like a food fight-type scenario, and everything gets thrown, including metal folding chairs.”
He added that he holds no ill will against any of the other players, because he said his son also engaged in the reckless behavior and does not believe their intent was to hurt his son, who is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome and will remain out of school indefinitely. He underwent reconstructive facial surgery early last week.
“I know these kids jackass around, but they’re a really tight-knit group of kids,” the father said.
When reached earlier, Hampton Bays head coach Mike Oestreicher declined to explain why his team forfeited the game. He did not return a call seeking comment.
In a series of emails sent last Thursday night, Mr. Clemensen wrote that “the coaching staff is generally present in the locker room before and during practice,” though they give the players privacy while changing their clothes afterward. He added that the incident has prompted the district to reconsider some of its locker room policies.
“Guidelines for locker room, pre- and post-practice supervision, along with procedures to anonymously report incidents of misconduct are being reviewed and may be revised prior to the start of the winter athletic season,” Mr. Clemensen wrote. “Our coaching staff will receive training on any new protocols.”
Mr. Clemensen explained that an administrator stationed in the nurse’s office and a security guard were able to assist the boy until EMS personnel arrived from Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance to transport him to Southampton Hospital.
Southampton Town Police also responded to the incident, but only as an assisting agency, according to Lieutenant Michael Zarro. Mr. Clemensen said the issue still is being handled internally and that the boy’s father said he is waiting to see a copy of the police report before taking any further action.
The Baymen ended their season at 2-6, though they could have earned a spot in the playoffs had they played and defeated Greenport on November 2.
Mr. Clemensen said the coaches have fulfilled their duties for the year, so they are up for reevaluation. He declined to share if they would be returning next season, stating that personnel issues are confidential.