Turns out even the province’s most dominant high school football program of the modern era isn’t without its problems.
An incident from early May that left the gear of a Mount Douglas Rams player soaked in urine was “the last straw.”
It was the latest in a series of incidents and ended with the senior half of the football program being shut down for 10 days and two students receiving temporary suspensions from school, according to Mount Douglas secondary principal Shawn Boulding. It was meant to be a prank, and ended up shaking the senior football program – which has won four of the last six AAA provincial championships – to its core.
The incident, explained Boulding, involved two players (who weren’t named) entering the football team’s change room, on practice day, and dousing another player’s gear with a water bottle.
“They sprayed the gear so it’s wet, and in hindsight, players do prank each other,” Boulding said. “They thought it would be funny if they sprayed the gear so he’d have to practise in wet gear.”
Problem was, it wasn’t water in the bottle, it was urine.
“Practice time comes and the [victim] lays claim someone has urinated all over his gear,” Boulding said. “As far as someone directly urinating on someone else’s gear, I don’t believe that to be true.”
Boulding says there was plenty of back and forth with the players and with Rams program co-ordinator Mark Townsend – the architect of the team’s success as a high school football dynasty.
The principal sat down with the offending athletes who said they didn’t know the water bottle had urine in it.
Boulding also met with the victim and his parents, and after reviewing it, the victim accepted that the offending boys were unaware there was urine in the bottle and didn’t think it was anything malicious.
“It was difficult, I never could understand the intention of the [offending] boys,” Boulding said.
However, it was not the first incident this season, which led Boulding and Townsend to shut down the program, albeit it for less than two weeks, to “send a message.”
“Certainly in the last few months there’s been a few incidents and I’ve worked with the coach to say, this culture isn’t to the standard we’d like it to be,” Boulding said. “These are student athletes who are students first, so we pulled the plug on the spring season for about 10 to 14 days and talked to the standard of being a student athlete.”
The program stoppage threatened to cancel the Rams controlled scrimmage, a late May game with a Vancouver school that’s basically the only football game of the spring season. It’s also the culmination of the 10-week spring training season.
Eventually Boulding met with Townsend once again and came to a decision based on a belief the kids had made the changes they were asked, and reinstated the season in time for the controlled scrimmage to be held.
Ultimately, the incidents will carry over to the 2017 fall football season with player suspensions, Boulding said.
“I don’t interfere with [the team]. [They’ll have] repercussions moving forward, and there will be player suspensions going into next year,” Boulding said.
The principal shied away from using the term bullying, describing the genesis of this year’s incidents as a dispute between players, though it was namely one player verses many.
“We’re optimistic, we’re always dealing with youth and large numbers of them, and we’ve been working with the leadership of the group to make sure we bridge between expectations of the coaches and the school to move forward on the same page with things,” Boulding said.