A Dallas football coach was placed on administrative leave after several players on his team were hospitalized. According to reports, the coach forced the team to perform hundreds of push-ups.
The incident occurred Friday Jan. 6 during an athletic class at an elite public school, in the outskirts of Dallas. Football coach John Harrell of Rockwall-Heath High School is alleged to have made his players perform 400 push-ups in one hour. His suspension is pending a third party investigation.
The mother of one player, who did not wish to be named, told Dallas Morning News that her son was forced to do 300-400 push ups with no water breaks. Following the intense workout, her son was taken to hospital and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition caused by overexertion of the muscle tissue, which can be fatal if ignored.
Two other parents said the students did in excess of 350 push-ups. According to Dallas Morning News, at least eight students were hospitalized in total.
“As parents, we send our children to school and trust that they will be looked after at the highest level. That was the case up until this unfortunate event,” one parent told USA Sports News.
Rockwall-Heath principal Todd Bradford sent a letter on Tuesday which confirmed that multiple students needed medical attention, with some requiring hospitalization. According to the letter, the incident took place during an eighth-period athletic class, reported Fox 4 News Dallas-Fort Worth.
At the start of Monday’s athletic class, students were advised to report any unusual symptoms to the the campus athletic trainer, the letter continued. Symptoms included being unable to bend or extend arms, unable to lift arms above head, as well as dark-colored urine and sharp arm pain.
School district administrators reportedly were briefed about the situation on Monday morning.
“Please know the district immediately implemented measures to address the situation and provide support for our students. District administrators and campus personnel have been in contact with the affected families and student-athletes,” the letter goes on to say.
Monday’s athletic class attendees took part in a light recovery workout and warm-ups.
Neither ISD athletic director Russ Reeves nor Harrell responded to requests for comment.
Harrell has been employed at Rockwall-Heath since 2019, initially as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. He was promoted to lead the team in January 2022. In 2020, the team reached the regional finals as well as semi-finals in 2021. This season, the team was 7-5, having lost in the second round of the play-offs.
According to team captain Brady Luff, the incident did not occur as a result of punishment for the players, having witnessed the workout. He says that instead, the coach was “instilling discipline,” as reported by Fox News.
He added that at no time were players deprived of water and none of them were forced to stay if they wanted to leave.
“He’s treated us with nothing but respect, and he loves every single one of us like his own,” Luff told Fox News.
This was echoed by Luff’s mother, Stefanie, who also did not find fault with Harrell’s approach.
“If anything was going on with this situation that I thought these kids were being harmed, I would’ve been the first person up at the principal’s office or wherever I need to go to have this shut down,” she told Fox news.