The Hernando School District continues to be embarrassed by the actions of coaches who are supposed to help mold high school student-athletes into responsible citizens. Individual athletic directors and principals must do a better job of screening and controlling their staffs to avoid the cheating and feared predatory behavior.
In just the past six days the public learned:
• Nature Coast Technical High School suspended boys basketball coach Dave Pisarcik for six games and accepted a $500 fine and a year's administrative probation for illegally recruiting players.
• Nature Coast also suspended teacher/girls basketball coach Travis Lamle for 10 days, banned him from coaching for five years and ordered him to complete ethics training after he went to the home of one of his players to swim in her pool.
• Central High School terminated the contract of girls soccer coach and culinary arts teacher Jason Gray after his drunken late-night call to one of his players soliciting a ride home from a bar.
It is a collective display of immaturity and poor judgment that reflects negatively on all the coaches who play by the rules, comprehend the boundaries between mentor and player and serve admirably as role models.
We'll start with Pisarcik. To the school's credit, it self-reported the allegations of the coach's attempts to lure Springstead High School players to Nature Coast, a countywide magnet school free of geographic boundaries that limit other schools' enrollment. Pisarcik also is suspected of illegal recruiting by scheduling off-season speed conditioning sessions that welcomed middle schoolers and students from other high schools.
Some of the allegations surfaced after a soured relationship between Pisarcik and the father of his star player. Regardless, how exactly is Pisarcik supposed to teach fair play and sportsmanship if bending the rules to gain an advantage is part of the program's operating procedures?
The behavior of Lamle came into question after he visited the home of one of his players — the daughter of a woman he used to date — for an after-school swim. Hanging out shirtless with a female sophomore with no other adult at home raised concerns from the mother but resulted in no other allegations of wrongdoing. Lamle should have avoided the perception of a potentially inappropriate relationship by limiting his player contact to sanctioned school activities.
Lamle should be more than familiar with lapses in judgment. He oversaw all athletics at Nature Coast while other transgressions occurred including the resignation of the then-football coach Jamie Joyner who was under investigation for suspicions of having a romantic relationship with a 17-year-old girl. In that case, no charges were filed after the teenager declined to cooperate with authorities.
At Central High, Gray's late night phone call bordered on sexual harassment and his follow-up apologetic text messages to the student defied his explanation that he didn't know or didn't remember who he called for a ride. Next time he's too inebriated to drive home, he should call a cab. Firing him was the right thing to do.
The string of behavior issues points to a need for training beyond the Xs and Os of competitive strategy to better prepare these coaches/teachers for interacting with impressionable and vulnerable teenagers. Refresher courses on ethics and sexual harassment certainly are warranted and should be mandatory for future hires.