- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
13-year-old allowed to complete season on 12-year-old team
By LAURA DUKES
Controversy among the Calvert County youth football community and local government has erupted over a previously deemed “illegal” player being given a special exception by the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners.
The Calvert County Youth Football League — an organization administered by a board of coaches governed by the Calvert County Division of Parks and Recreation — has a rule stating that for the 2012 football season, children must be placed on teams based on their age as of July 31, 2012.
A child who was already 13 years old by that date was placed on the Huntingtown Hurricanes 12 and under team regardless of this rule, according to the Calvert County Youth Football League board spokesman Greg Disney, who also coaches the Chesapeake Beach Buccaneers 12 and under team.
Disney said he received an anonymous email about the player’s age Nov. 6 and said the email stated that the team had known of the contradiction of the rules since the beginning of the season.
“We had to go straight to the rule book, and it was pretty clear,” said Disney, who said he immediately forwarded the email to the Calvert County Division of Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreation Division Chief Doug Meadows would not respond to calls and deferred comment to Calvert County government spokeswoman Carrie Lovejoy. Lovejoy said the Division of Parks and Recreation decided upon hearing the situation that the team would have to forfeit the seven out of nine games in which the 13-year-old had played.
Shortly thereafter, Calvert County Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said he received a phone call from the player’s mother explaining the situation.
Slaughenhoupt said he discussed the situation with his fellow commissioners and he, Commissioner Pat Nutter (R) and Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) decided by majority that the boy should be allowed to complete the season on the 12 and under team.
Clark said all five commissioners ultimately agreed that the 13-year-old should be allowed to stay on the team.
“I was extremely hesitant at first,” said Clark, who said his mind was changed when he saw a picture of the boy in his uniform next to the other players.
“He was like 30 or 50 pounds lighter than all the other kids. ... My heart overruled my head,” Clark said. “The reality is if I had to do it over again, I’d probably still do it.”
Lovejoy said since parks and recreation is a division of the county government, the commissioners can have final say in the division’s decisions.
“The strong position with my fellow commissioners is that we need to let the kids play and resolve the issues at the end of the season,” Slaughenhoupt said. “The kids are doing nothing wrong. ... We had to say, ‘Enough, this is silly.’”
The 13-year-old boy played in his team’s winning playoff game Wednesday evening against the Dunkirk Warriors, but for many involved, the issue was far from settled.
Disney said that even though the boy’s size was not the issue, as he was considered small for his age, Disney felt as though the Youth Football League board’s credibility was taken away.
“This was a heartwrenching decision, but some people in the organization have to be held accountable. ... Everything gets held over our heads straight to the county commissioners,” Disney said, adding that the player had been scoring touchdowns and would have probably been a good fit for a 13 and under team.
The Huntingtown 12 and under head coach Erik Allen was removed from his position for the remainder of the season, though Disney called the decision “a slap on the wrist” since there were only two games left.
Allen declined to comment but confirmed that he had been removed from his position. One of the Huntingtown 12 and under assistant coaches, Charlie Brown, filled Allen’s position at Wednesday’s game.
Chesapeake Beach Buccaneers President Jimmy Niland called the entire situation “sad.”
“You penalize the other 120 kids whose team did it right,” Niland said of the waiver the commissioners granted.
Both Niland and Disney said the Prince Frederick 12 and under team also contained a 13-year-old player, whom they said the team promptly removed once news of an error on his birth certificate was brought fourth.
Tammy Jones, whose son is on the Huntingtown 12 and under team, attended Wednesday’s playoff game and said the Huntingtown 13-year-old had health difficulties that would have made playing on his age-appropriate team unsafe.
Jones said at the start of the season the boy received a punched card containing his weight and birthdate, thereby giving him clearance to play on the 12 and under team. She said she was not sure who actually punched the card but said officials from both Parks and Recreation and his team were in the room at the time the card was punched.
She said the boy weighed 77 pounds “on a team that can weigh up to 120 pounds.”
Jones said she thought the initial complaint stemmed from the fact that the Huntingtown 12 and under team had been undefeated all season.
“That gets people to try to find out what you’re doing. We’re working hard, that’s all,” Jones said, calling the commissioners’ decision “a checks and balances system done successfully.”
The parents of the 13-year-old player also attended Wednesday evening’s game but declined to comment.
Suzanne Crawford, whose son is on the Dunkirk 12 and under team, said she thought the Huntingtown team should have been disqualified immediately.
“I put my son on the team he was supposed to be on even though he was smaller than all the other kids,” Crawford said, continuing that the bottom line was that a rule was broken and overlooked.
“What kind of example does that set for the kids?” Crawford said, adding that she lays no blame on the player in question.
“He’s innocent in it, but he’s not the right age for that team. ... If rules are followed, it provides a safe environment for all the kids,” Crawford said.
One factor on which all sides seemed to agree was that the situation went too far.
“There is no reason that the county commissioners should have had to interfere,” Slaughenhoupt said.
Disney said that the circumstances were unfavorable for all involved.
“This is youth sports; it shouldn’t be like that,” he said.