Home > News and Politics > DISQUALIFIED FOR HER FRIENDSHIP BRACELET? THAT’S MY STORY (ON SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WEBSITE)–AND I’M LINKING TO IT

DISQUALIFIED FOR HER FRIENDSHIP BRACELET? THAT’S MY STORY (ON SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WEBSITE)–AND I’M LINKING TO IT

ROBIN LAIRD (Photo: Taylor Block)

BY DAVE WIELENGA / SI.COM

Remember the story of the college softball player who hit the game-winning homer and blew out her knee as she trotted around first base, but was carried to second, third and home by opposing players — even though she represented the decisive run in a game that determined the championship?

This is not that story.

This is the story of a high school pole vaulter whose successful leap in the last event won the meet and the league championship for her team — until an opposing coach pointed out she should be disqualified for breaking a rule, reversing the outcome so that his team captured victory and the league title.

The girl’s infraction? Wearing a friendship bracelet.

READ THE ENTIRE STORY ON SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S WEBSITE, WWW.SI.COM

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  1. Dick Barnes
    May 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Hey Dave… great story… and great to see your byline popping up on a big-money site! All best, Dick

  2. Scott Schulte
    May 11, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Dave: While I feel bad for this girl who was disqualified, I have to chime in. I have coached track for 20 years and now officiate on a pert time basis. The rules are very clear and it was Robin Laird’s coach’s responsibility to make sure each athlete adhered to all of the rules, not just the big rules. Do I think this rule is stupid? Yes, absolutely and that is why as a clear-of-the-course, I am very clear before each event to remind the athletes to remove earing, rings, and bracelets. There are many weird rules but it is important to teach athletes about living within the rules life will offer down the road. I don’t know what the opposing coach was thinking but is it his job to tell the opposing ath;ete to “coach” the opposition? Would U have done so, yes. I have reminded athletes from other teams of such rules and I was treated like a villain.I hope readers understand your story was well written and I understand why you could see her as a victim, but I disagree.

    Scott

    • May 11, 2010 at 11:59 pm

      Hi Scott, I agree with the coach of South Pasadena, that the rule exists and that the pole vaulter had a responsibility to follow the rule. Thanks for writing.

  3. Scott Schulte
    May 11, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    pardon my lack of grammar.

  4. Chuck
    May 12, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Looks like a sweatband to me.

  5. Phil Greene
    May 12, 2010 at 4:07 am

    “This is my 30th year coaching track,” Knowles said a few days later. “I know a lot of rules and regulations.”

    But obviously nothing about sportsmanship. Great life lesson coach. Also just because it once happened to you does not mean it is appropropriate tactic to use now. Sounds like you still have issues with that. I too have coached for years (35)myself at both the international (FIFA/USSA) and local levels, and trust me coaches look and see everything. Rather than decide it on the competitive nature of sports he CHOSE to use this. He could have spoken to the other coach ahead of time. Sportsmanship not victory above everything else. Enjoy your hard won championship….

  6. Bruce Hale
    May 12, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Look up jewelry in the dictionary – a string bracelet is not jewelry. They should appeal.

    • Anonymous
      May 12, 2010 at 5:55 am

      yeah falls under ornament…..LOL

  7. Lance
    May 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Dave, I think there is more to the story, look what I found on Mr. Knowles:

    http://www.zoominfo.com/people/Knowles_Mike_332801302.aspx

    Apparently he was fired from Muir High School in 1/09. Sounds like conflicting stories in the article as to why. Might be interesting to find the truth. Maybe it will shed some clues as to this guys character.

  8. Joe Pickering
    May 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I have been corresponding with Hal Harkness, the CIF Track and Field rules interpreter on this incident. Mr Harkness alleges that the article is “factually flawed.” He goes on to say: There is nothing in that “real time” sequence that was reported correctly in the article. the real time sequence is a 6 item list that Mr Harkness represents as the “real time” sequence of events; the article refers to the SI article.

    Dave: what is going on?

  9. May 13, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Hi Joe. I am acquainted with Hal Harkness from the days when he was coaching at UCLA and I was president of the Southern California Track Writers Association. It’s nice you two are corresponding, but you don’t provide the rest of us with the “six-item list that Mr. Harkness represents as the ‘real time’ sequence of events,” so to what am I supposed to answer? I interviewed the coaches of both high schools, the athletic director of one, several spectators—and the girl at the center of the incident. Oh,and the public relations person at the CIF-SS office. All but the CIF guy were at the meet. I don’t believe that Mr. Harkness was—was he? Nobody else has quarreled with my account of events.

  10. Joe Pickering
    May 13, 2010 at 10:20 am

    My apologies for not including the references earlier. Below is the email chain I’ve had with Mr Harkness. Please read from the bottom to the top.

    —start—
    From: Joe Pickering
    To: Hal Harkness; Marie M. Ishida; Ron Nocetti; Quwan Spears; Dean Crowley
    Cc: Lee Morrell; miguel melendez
    Sent: Thu, May 13, 2010 8:48:00 AM
    Subject: RE: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet

    Hal,

    The only attacks in this chain are the ones originating from you.

    Your email is littered with innuendo, anger and condescending commentary. I am shocked that a person in your position would choose to interact with the public in such an argumentative fashion. I think the author of the SI article would like to know that you allege his article is “factually flawed.”

    I hope you learn to interact with others in a more positive and productive manner.

    From: Hal Harkness
    Sent: Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:04 AM
    To: Joe Pickering
    Subject: Re: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet

    Joe,

    You still don’t know what really happened do you? You are basing your entire opinion based upon a factually flawed article.

    1. The young lady in question entered the competition after all others had been eliminated.
    2. She took only one jump.
    3. Her coach was the pole vault judge
    4. The bracelet was noticed by Coach Knowles as she returned down the runway after completing her only trial.
    5. She was not in compliance with the NFHS Jewelry rule.
    6. Coach Knowles reported the violation immediately when he saw it and did not wait for a more appropriate time as has been alleged.

    There is nothing in that “real time” sequence that was reported correctly in the article.

    I appreciate that you don’t like the rule, in the scheme of things it doesn’t much matter here as we are obligated to enforce it regardless of our like or dislike. If you really want to try to effect change or modification of the rule, direct your concerns to the National Federation in Indianapolis.

    I trust you might now have a clearer understanding of what really took place and step back a take a breath. You are correct, I have little regard for attacks based on falsehoods.

    Hal
    ________________________________________
    From: Joe Pickering
    To: Hal Harkness; Marie M. Ishida; Ron Nocetti; Quwan Spears; Dean Crowley
    Cc: Lee Morrell; miguel melendez
    Sent: Thu, May 13, 2010 7:02:38 AM
    Subject: RE: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet

    Mr Harkness,

    I’m not certain the questions at the start of your email are legitimate (I suspect you intend them as rhetorical, condescending, and possibly an attempt to intimidate me), so before I provide you with my pedigree, I require some clarification and answers from you:
    – Can a rules interpretation question be asked by a person only if said person was present at the meet during which a ruling might need interpretation?
    – Can a lawyer ask a rules interpretation question? Does the law school attended by the questioner matter (e.g. Georgetown)?
    – How would you like a person requesting a rules interpretation to demonstrate pedigree? Is a photocopy of the degrees, honors, and professional designations sufficient or is a more legal and binding mechanism?
    – Can a rules interpretation question be asked by a person who has firsthand knowledge of an event that requires a rules interpretation question?
    – Can a rules interpretation question be asked by a person who does not have firsthand knowledge of an event that requires a rules interpretation question?

    I do find your definition of jewelry and the rule background helpful, though. Thank you for that. Especially the part about the rule being in effect for the last 8 years (since 2002) as the Monrovia coach said: “About 10 years ago, I had a girl who wore an earring in the 4×400 relay and it ended up costing us a CIF title.” It seems that point may require some fact checking, putting Mr Knowles’ character front and center.

    I agree that your last your question has merit (“…why at the end of April an athlete, after eight weeks of competition, an athlete puts herself in jeopardy by wearing a bracelet”). Are you or CIF implying or accusing Ms Laird of wearing this adornment for the last 8 weeks?

    I included as an attachment, an email sent by you to a friend of mine. This email is included for the benefit of the CIF staffers on this email to:
    – Indicate a potential problem (your tone when replying to questions from the public);
    – Inform them of the growing discontent surrounding a situation that seems to have a very distinct downside for the CIF.

    To be clear, the rules are the rules and we as adults understand that. But it is unlikely that Mr Knowles “didn’t notice the bracelet until after she cleared the height and walked by,” as he claims. Track and Field, at the level we are discussing, is an amateur sport performed by high school aged teens. The sport is part of an academic curriculum designed to round out their experiences and help the athletes to build their own character. The general hope is that sports will help to teach them good sporting behavior: to play fair; compassion for the defeated; and magnanimity in victory, among other things.

    But, In this case, a rule is used to strip a better performing team of a win when the infraction did not in any way help that athlete perform better or hinder an opposing athlete. It hardly feels like fair play even though the rule is in place and was broken.

    The magnanimous and sporting thing to do would’ve been for Mr Knowles to use the moment to teach a opponent a lesson about the rules and about sportsmanship (a quick side chat with the opposing coach would’ve been sufficient). But the Monrovia coach may have been so concerned with winning, that nothing else mattered. We’ll never know for certain if Mr Knowles knew about the bracelet before Ms Laird’s vault, but we can recognize a wrong when we see it and we can work to repair the damage done by it. The one thing that is certain is that the behavior demonstrated by Ms Laird indicates that she already has more character than most despite the actions of and words spoken by Mr Knowles.

    What actions will the CIF take to repair the damage done by this event?

    Yours,
    Joe Pickering

    From: Hal Harkness
    Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 8:29 PM
    To: Joe Pickering
    Subject: Re: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet

    Joe,

    Were you in attendance at the dual meet? Do you have first hand knowledge of what transpired? Where did you obtain your law degree?

    In essence, the National Federation defines jewelry as any body adornment other than a wristwatch (which by rule is exempted to allow distance runners to monitor their pace during a race) and small items used for hair control. This rule has been in effect, for better or worse, since 2002. Athletes are constantly warned by their coaches for the entire season about thoroughly checked themselves before beginning competition. The pole vault judge just happened to be the South Pasadena vault coach. What are the chances he would have correctly applied the rule against his own athlete.

    The real question one should ask is why at the end of April an athlete, after eight weeks of competition, an athlete puts herself in jeopardy by wearing a bracelet. Get off the pious bandwagon and deal with reality as we know it;.

    Hal

    ________________________________________
    From: Joe Pickering
    To: Hal Harkness
    Cc: Lee Morrell
    Sent: Wed, May 12, 2010 4:43:55 PM
    Subject: RE: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet
    Mr Harkness,

    May I ask how the rulebook defines jewelry? Further, may I ask how the definition of jewelry includes a string bracelet without precious metals or gems but does not include the uniform, socks, shoelaces, shoes, underwear, or a device to restrain long hair?

    Joe Pickering

    From: Hal Harkness
    Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 12:25 PM
    To: Joe Pickering
    Subject: Re: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet

    Yes

    ________________________________________
    From: Joe Pickering
    To: hal harkness
    Sent: Wed, May 12, 2010 8:12:07 AM
    Subject: FW: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet
    Mr Harkness,

    Does the string tied around Ms Laird’s wrist during her vaults on 29 April disqualify her?

    Joe Pickering

  11. Joe Pickering
    May 13, 2010 at 10:41 am

    The earliest emails on the thread above are below…they were forwarded to Mr Harkness with the email at the bottom of the chain in the above post.

    —-
    From: Joe Pickering
    Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:10 AM
    To: pj hernandez
    Cc: Lee Morrell
    Subject: FW: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet

    Mr Hernandez,

    I want to express my support for your team. Mr Knowles action at the meet on 29 April in South Pasadena was, in my opinion, the action of a desperate man. But, this note is not about those who do not merit accolades.

    You and your team should be congratulated for beating Monrovia on the field. It is my fervent hope that the young men and women on your team will not hold the bitterness of the day in their memories, but will remember the triumph culminated by Ms Laird’s vault.

    I hope that the rules are altered or a formal challenge to the ruling on the field is made (if permissible). I cannot get a copy of the NFHS rules for Track and Field in California, but if jewelry is not defined or if the string Ms Laird wore on her wrist does not meet the definition of jewelry, the ruling on the field should be reversed.

    Congratulations to your team and good luck at your meets for the rest of the year!
    Joe Pickering

    From: Joe Pickering
    Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:28 AM
    To: Linda Wagner (Monrovia Superintendent; Randy Bell (Monrovia AD); Darvin Jackson (Principal Monrovia HS)
    Subject: Article on Mr Knowles at recent track meet

    Ms Wagner, Mr Jackson, and Mr Bell,

    I am writing to express my disapproval of and disappointment with Mr Knowles’ actions as reported in Sports Illustrated and other media outlets regarding the rules infraction he called on an opposing player at a track meet on 29 April in South Pasadena (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/highschool/05/11/track.controversy/index.html).

    My understanding of a high school coach’s job is to teach his or her student-athletes to become better athletes by improving their performance. A coach teaches the basics and employs various techniques to help those student-athletes to improve their performance. That job involves motivation of those student-athletes and during the coaching process, the coach will impart life skills to those student athletes. But, the coach fills a trusted position and therefore should be held to a high standard.

    All too often, we hear about professional athletes who use illegal or unethical methods to improve their performance. That behavior is learned…possibly from a person in a position to exert a large amount of influence in the athlete’s life. Much like a coach does for student-athletes. Mr Knowles taught his student-athletes a lesson that day: if you aren’t good enough to beat the other team on your own merits, find a way to disqualify the other team.

    The teachable moment passed, and I would grade Mr Knowles a failure in teaching student-athletes about sportsmanship

    Will Monrovia let Mr Knowles’ actions stand and speak to the character and reputation of the school? Or, will an investigation uncover rule-breaking by Mr Knowles who said of this incident: “…you’ve got to teach the kids that rules are rules”?

    Joe Pickering

  12. Joe Pickering
    May 13, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Just received from Hal Harkness…

    From: Hal Harkness
    Sent: Thursday, May 13, 2010 1:36 PM
    To: Joe Pickering
    Subject: Posting on Dyestatcal by Rich Gonzales Editor of the Site

    Joe,

    This is a response to several postings on http://www.dyestatcal.com.

    Rich Gonzales is the Editor of the site, Meet Director of the Arcadia Invitational and involved with dozens of other high school track and cross country projects.

    “The right thing to do would have been for the meet referee to do his job, as any such mess could possibly have been avoided.

    The meet referee (the starter) left before the South Pasadena-Monrovia dual meet was over. As is specified in the rule book, the referee’s authority begins upon his/her arrival at the meet location and ends 30 minutes after the meet’s last event is over. The official left after the 4x400s but before the meet was officially over as the pole vault was still ongoing. When that official left, it created the environment for the coaches to have to make the uncomfortable decision in his stead.

    There is more to it (a lot more) which will probably eventually come out in the wash. Unfortunately, it appears the Monrovia coach has been unfairly singled out and seemingly vilified.

    I’ve also been informed that the original story was written by the brother of a former South Pasadena HS track and field coach.”

    From me:

    The South Pasadena pole vault coach was acting as the pole vault judge and running the event. It was a bit of a conflict of interest for him to penalize his own athlete as an official, which he was at the time. There were at least two other unusual things (illegal according to the rule book) that had already transpired in the event under his direction.

    Enough said, it was an unfortunate situation and blame can be assessed in several directions. The bottom line the rule still exists and similar rulings will occur in the future.

    Hal

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