Sensless Death – Max Gilpin


Total Pro Sports – Let’s take you back to August 20th, 2008. Max Gilpin, an offensive lineman for the Pleasant Ridge Park high school football team in Kentucky, collapses at practice. It was a 94 degree day and as anybody who has ever put the pads on knows, unpleasant weather to be practicing football in.

Coach David Jason Stinson and his staff had waited until 5pm to begin practice, hoping that a later start would make the elements more bearable. From what I’ve read, the coach was running a grueling practice. Allegedly, the coach was pushing his players hard and withholding water from them. After Max collapsed he was taken to the emergency room where he was reported to have a 107 degree body temperature. They were too late in getting Max treatment, and Max passed away. It is a tragic story.

How does this happen?

Doesn’t everybody know at this point how important hydration is, especially while being active in extreme heat. If you go to NFL training camps over the summer, you will see prior to practice that all the lineman are given intravenous fluids to prevent such accidents. How does a coach who played at a high level (he was a center at the college level) not realize that withholding water from players is completely negligent? Coach Stinson has since been charged with reckless homicide.

Where does the responsibility lie in this situation?

Should the players have demanded water? Maybe, but I played high school football and I know that most kids don’t have the maturity or the fortitude to question their coaches. I was denied the football captain in my senior year, even though I had won it in voting amongst my teammates. I never said anything to him,even though I was extremely upset, even though it still eats at me to this day (I am 35), even though it may have changed the whole course of my life. That being said, I was never in any danger of dying. My feelings were hurt. Bottom line is this: high school athletes are trying to impress their coaches, and questioning their authority is not looked upon as the way to achieve that goal.

I think we are all in agreement when I say that the responsibility of the players well being is put upon the coach in charge. What this coach did may have been acceptable in the 60’s and 70’s, but certainly we know better today. I myself am a coach (baseball,football) and  know that maybe sometimes an athlete needs tough love, but never at the risk of my players health. Why not practice in the gym that day? Maybe we could go over playbooks in a classroom that day. Maybe we can make sure that they are forced to hydrate at regular intervals during practice! Now I am sure that coach Stinson meant no harm to his boys, but what he did was extremely reckless, and pleading ignorance (I don’t know whether he did or not)is unacceptable. I think the charge of reckless homicide is fair and just.

Coaches you need to be aware when you take on an authority role that you are responsible to your kids. Athletes, make sure you are completely hydrated before engaging in sports activity. A good way to tell is by your urine.If it is clear you are hydrated if you are not, no good. Remember you have a right to speak up, it may just save your life.

My prayers go out to Max Gilpin’s family, friends, and teammates. I also send them out to coach Stinson, who I am sure had no intention of this happening. Remember sports are supposed to be fun, and I know with all the money involved on pro sports we tend to forget that, but face it not many get to live that dream.

I would really like to thank all of you who have been reading and commenting on my posts. I usually do like to mix in some sarcastic humor within my posts to keep things light.

Tags: David Jason Stinson, death, football, Kentucky, Max Gilpin, Pleasant Ridge Park high school,