New Scrutiny on Running as Punishment for Athletes

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The practice of coaches using extra running to punish players for bad behavior and poor performance is getting new scrutiny in Iowa following a school district report about a Des Moines football coach accused of violating corporal punishment policies by making a student sprint and take laps.

The report released Thursday examined the suspended high school coach's actions, the Des Moines Register reported. The sophomore player was being punished for making derogatory comments about the varsity squad.

The Des Moines schools' investigation determined that the Lincoln High School player ran at least 20 hill sprints, completed 20 up-and-down drills, lapped the practice field twice and then went on to run more hill sprints. All of the activity was done in 25 to 30 minutes, and an athletic trainer said the student was not given a water break.

Corporal punishment is illegal in Iowa schools and is defined as physical force or physical contact made with the intent to harm or cause pain. That law provides a specific exemption for "reasonable requests or requirements of a student engaged in activities associated with physical education class or extracurricular athletics."

Thomas Mayes, an attorney for the Iowa Department of Education, believes that running or extra conditioning could be considered corporal punishment under the law, but said "there is no bright line that can be drawn between what is reasonable and unreasonable."

"There is a difference between girls' sports and boys' sports, between first grade (physical education) and high school P.E. and recreational athletes versus world-class athletes," Mayes said.

Some Iowa athletic officials contacted by the newspaper said making players run extra for punishment may soon be a thing of the past.

Tom Wilson, activities director at Dowling Catholic High School, agreed that times have changed, but called the issue is "a slippery slope."

"If they start disallowing any form of discipline in this way, I think youth sports are in trouble," Wilson said.
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