Controversy over players blocked from Santa Rosa High badminton team



This should be a happy time for the Santa Rosa High School badminton team, which recently began its North Bay League title defense. But a clash with the SRHS administration has the Panthers crying “fault.”

At the core of the complaint, several prospective 2015 badminton players — Santa Rosa High principal Brad Coscarelli says three, coach Brett Williams says he can document seven — were denied places on the roster because their Student Athletic Clearance Packets were turned in late.

Santa Rosa High badminton player Liam Galbraith, a junior, was The Press Democrat’s All-Empire Player of the Year in 2014. (PD File)

Santa Rosa High badminton player Liam Galbraith, a junior, was The Press Democrat’s All-Empire Player of the Year in 2014. (PD File)

“By disrespecting the program and even unjustly preventing people from participating on the team, the SRHS administration is furthering inequality within the education system and preventing students from engaging in constructive extracurricular activities,” junior Liam Galbraith wrote in an email to The Press Democrat.

Galbraith’s opinion holds some weight. He was our All-Empire Boys Badminton Player of the Year in 2014.

To Coscarelli, the matter is unfortunate but easy to adjudicate. The paperwork was late, pure and simple.

“We have 2,000 students at Santa Rosa High,” Coscarelli said. “It’s a large, diverse population. No matter what we do on campus, if a deadline is a deadline, it’s a deadline — no matter what event or topic.”

But Williams, the badminton coach, claims his program is hamstrung by those deadlines. The badminton team doesn’t get a regular slot in the SRHS gym until basketball season ends. Santa Rosa has one of the top girls basketball programs in the area. The Panthers regularly make the playoffs; this year, their season didn’t end until an NCS quarterfinal loss to Clayton Valley on Feb. 27. Packets were due four days earlier.

“It’s hard to corner kids about paperwork when I don’t have access to them,” Williams said. “Last year we didn’t have our first official practice until after spring break. It really puts me at a disadvantage. We lose kids to track and other sports.”

A late start is a particular problem for badminton, Williams said, because his players are not typical high school athletes. Most of them don’t play another school sport. Some of them have never played on any organized team. For these kids, word of mouth is everything. A lot of them don’t feel comfortable joining until they are encouraged by others who have figured out how welcoming badminton is.

Coscarelli insists that no sport at Santa Rosa High gets special treatment, and refutes Williams’ claim that badminton is left without practice time. Coscarelli concedes that a team in the midst of a playoff run gets precedence, but says the badminton squad has plenty of opportunity to work out; they just have to juggle times with the basketball team.

And there is an alternate space.

“Santa Rosa High has two gyms, the north gym and the south gym,” Coscarelli explained. “Our main gym is the south gym, where we play all of our league games. The old north gym is from the 1930s. It’s the original gym, and it’s not ideal. There aren’t badminton lines on the court, so it would have to be taped or something. But it’s a facility that could be used, and was offered.”

Williams insists the north gym court is too small for regulation badminton.

Anyway, Williams and kids like Galbraith have a deeper complaint. SRHS administrators acknowledge they made allowances for at least two softball players who turned in late forms. Coscarelli said that there were “special circumstances” surrounding these students. And co-athletic director Kris Bertsch argued that Santa Rosa might have had to scrap its JV softball program if the deadlines had been strictly enforced.

“To save a program, we made a last-ditch effort to get two more girls out there to field a team,” Bertsch wrote in an email. “I think you would agree this is a very different situation than what Badminton has when there have been 53 kids who were able to follow the rules and time line and get their Badminton Athletic Packets turned in. 53 kids … pretty sure this shows open access.”

Williams, who doesn’t cut players, and his athletes bear no grudge against the softball players. But the process has left them with the uncomfortable feeling that the rules are black-and-white for badminton, grayer for softball, feeding badminton’s image as a second-class sport.

No matter who is at fault, the result is unfortunate. Some of the kids who might benefit most from an after-school sport have been told they cannot participate.

Sophomore Beatrice Howell is one of those kids. She had never played competitive badminton before this year. But she knew Liam Galbraith from rock climbing and she unexpectedly excelled at badminton in PE. So when a friend urged her to join Williams’ team, Howell gave it a shot. When she showed up for an informal preseason tournament, though, she was told she couldn’t take the court.

“I feel sad,” Howell said. “That’s all it is, sad and disappointing. I really enjoy being around people, and that was my way of getting exercise during the week. It made me feel motivated. So I don’t know what to do at this point.”

  • Guest

    I would agree with you but, there are reasons for the
    badminton to not cut any players. 90% of the kids that show up have never
    played a sport. In softball, you have to know the rules to be a player. In
    softball you have to have baseball equipment to participate and not be afraid
    of a hard ball coming at you from all angles. SRHS Badminton players derives
    from different kinds of kids. Some are athletic but, most are kids that have a
    late discovery of a sport that they can learn to play. These kids are the in between
    that have not played organized sports because they simply assume they’ve missed
    their opportunity, in comparison to the kids that have played all types of
    sports and are generally the superstars of that particular sport. The SRHS badminton
    have the numbers but, the number does not equal the talent most of the “popular”
    sports receive. The SRHS badminton team have a devoted coaches who are willing
    to work with less than talented players to make for a successful program. The
    comparison and the statement of numbers does not equal the reality of each
    sport and their reasoning for the excess and the lack thereof.

    Maybe the lesson that
    needs to be learned here is there needs to be flexibility in everything in
    life. Deadlines needs to observe properly for proper guidance of student,
    whether it be school work or sports. Guidelines are to be adhered to, deadlines
    needs flexibility if there isn’t a matter that will cause a catastrophe. In the
    real world, we all adhere to guidelines for a better society.

    To finite the growing mind and body, is to limit the endless
    possibility of the “what ifs”.

    Have a wonderful day!

  • Friend

    What I don’t understand is, if this packet is about their physical clearance form what is the big deal. You don’t turn it in on time, you don’t practice or play until you turn it in. Badminton is fortunate that they don’t have to cut players. Most other sports you do, that’s why all paperwork needs to be in on the effective date that practice can start. All admin has to do is check off that everything is signed by parents and physicians and let the coach know. Sounds like SRHS has lazy staff.

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    It’s sad that my response is so appropriate to your comment.

  • MC

    i am a student and an athlete at SRHS and i can say from a first hand account that most of our administrators refuse to take action and do their jobs. our athletic directors will not do anything that means a little extra work. they dont care about our athletes and are just there to collect extra money in there paychecks. They refuse to hire a coach who will actually be successful. it took them months to hire an alternate varsity football coach after they had no problem firing the old one. they refuse to fire he varsity basketball coach because he pleases parents. they need to do their job

  • Brooke Clyde

    “Galbraith’s opinion holds some weight. He was our All-Empire Boys Badminton Player of the Year in 2014.”

    Non sequitur …

  • Reality Check

    It’s sad that you have no response better than that.

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    You’re mean!

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    What a tool.

  • Jim Chitwood

    Don’t they know that now, in America, rules are made but don’t need to be followed. Whose fault is it? It couldn’t possibly be the fault of those who wanted to play because persona responsibility no longer exists. Do some digging into grades at Sonoma County schools. You’ll find students who never turn in any work passing because their parents complain and exceptions are made. Bad grade? Have mommy complain to the principal and the grade will be disregarded. I’ve seen in hundreds of times.

    So what if the paperwork is due by a certain date? Why should kids be burdened with filling out paperwork anyway? They should just be allowed to send a text, a tweet or a Facebook post saying they want to play.

  • Reality Check

    What’s arbitrary about it? Should students turn in assignments whenever they get around to it? One reality of life is that we all face deadlines. Failing to meet them usually has consequences. The sooner you learn that the better . . . . for you.

  • I.S.S.

    It is not whining when there is obvious favoritism. It is also sad that adults condone injustices … SonomaGunGun, within our school system. Our children (young people) will hopefully fight for what is simply “right” and not just let things be, because ” it is what is”… Sad.

    We all need to evolve, adults alike. Being hypocritical in stating an administrator deadline, that has no merit is laughable. Yes, we understand that it is a liability but, is it really? When all school activities are budgeted it in for the year (?) hmmm… I wonder.

    Furthermore, this team is one of the few successful programs for SRHS and yet it is being ostracized because there it administrative rule, that is clearly NOT black and white. Would it be the same if it were a successful SRHS football team? Oh no wait, badminton is not that popular of a sport… black and white (?)

    I work in the real world. I work for one of the most successful companies in Sonoma County. And there are always gray areas because, growth matters in the quality of work being done. Numbers are wonderful but, it takes that special person/idea (s) that will make YOU stand out from everything. This should be considered in the realm of the 53 # being mentioned and the 7 banned.

    We are now in 2015, “It is what it is” should not be uttered without any justifiable meaning.

  • Duncan Meech

    It is every American’s right to remain a man-child or woman-child for their entire life…but i don’t recommend it. So yes the softball players should get an introduction to hardball.

  • SonomaGunGun

    They always have and always will. I would never defend their lunacy, but it is what it is. Schools have never been about fairness.

  • Ali Alterman

    This is typical small minded bureaucrats who revel in their power to say “NO” rather than looking for a solution that EDUCATES! EVERY school has late players – they’re kids! Give them a consequence they can LEARN from not a consequence that shuts them down! Allowing the softball players and exemption and not the badminton team sends another message – some people are more important than others, its who you know not what you know, and exceptions will be made, but not for you!

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    “We have 2,000 students at Santa Rosa High,” Coscarelli said. “It’s a large, diverse population. No matter what we do on campus, if a deadline is a deadline, it’s a deadline — no matter what event or topic.” Presumably, the phrase “no matter what” includes a program not having enough players. Also, I challenge your premise that it’s “wrong” to allow students to turn in paperwork after an arbitrary deadline has passed.

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    First, SRHS administrators wanted to punish the victim of a beating from two unauthorized visitors to campus, now this. Worst. Admin staff. Ever.

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    Or maybe the kids lawyer up and the High School gets a lesson in backing down from a stupid policy that they selectively enforce. Life isn’t fair, but the government (including public schools), is mandated by the U.S. Constitution to treat everyone equally. This means that schools can’t pick and choose who has to follow the rules and who can get away with breaking them.

  • lj

    So, turn in the paperwork!

  • lj

    So…turn in the paperword!

  • J.B.

    To Mr. Coscarelli
    Dont sit behind your desk and make excuses why the top sports get reasons for breaking your black and white rules. Work with Brett…. understand the situation….show up to a game… shake the players hands… ask your sports director to attend with you….meet with parents who spend there hours supporting YOUR team. This is Sad! I have been watching every game for the last four years and never seen anyone attend a match or sit with the parents and watch YOUR team. What if these players were allowed….what would happen?
    As a parent of SRHS, I know I have spoken to every coach and they agree that the admin. simple sucks.
    Get these kids back to playing!
    Coscerelli…..respond to this….. stand up and work with Brett. Hes coaching for YOUR team! give these kids EQUAL treatment and next year , set all the teams equal treatment. PLEASE RESPOND and sit down and watch the next home game with the parents.

  • SonomaGunGun

    That’s the lesson in unfairness when the institution doesn’t care about the people in it. It is mostly like that everywhere. Try to work for yourself kids, most bosses are the same way.

  • J.B.

    the ones pointing is the admin.

  • J.B.

    so the softball players who had this “exception” should grow up as well?

  • J.B.

    pretty simple. Santa Rosa High School admin. really didnt give a @#%#. The principle should stand up for these kids instead of tossing them out. Its not a grade issue….. its paperwork that was done like everyone else.

  • J.B.

    then they should have made the JV softball team follow those black and white rules. JV softball should be cut or held out a year if thats true

  • SonomaGunGun

    Then they also get a lesson in the politics of institutions and that life is not fair.

  • Duncan Meech

    They expect to get accepted to Stanford or the J.C. if they apply late? Time to grow up.

  • Youdont Knowme

    The moral of the story is “sometimes life isn’t fair”. Next time, get the paperwork in on time regardless if others do or don’t. Quit finger pointing and take personal responsibility.

  • Reality Check

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. Actually, the difference cited in the article makes the reason clear. One program wouldn’t have had sufficient players, while the other had an abundance of people who cared enough to apply on time.

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    The JV softball players were allowed to turn in their paperwork late.

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    So why did the JV softball players get to submit their paperwork late?

  • SonomaGunGun

    They assume if they whine publically that people will have sympathy?
    I think we all just had a lesson in accountability and the true meaning of a deadline boys and girls.

  • Reality Check

    Isn’t part of growing up learning that some things need to be done on time? If one wonders why so many adolescents can’t seem to transition to the responsibilities of adulthood, this article could be exhibit one.

  • Joe Junblut

    Head line seems misleading. Shouldn’t it say, Potential Players miss deadline can’t play sport?

  • Arrrrrrgggghhh

    “We have 2,000 students at Santa Rosa High,” Coscarelli said. “It’s a large, diverse population. No matter what we do on campus, if a deadline is a deadline, it’s a deadline — no matter what event or topic.” In other words, a deadline is a deadline–except for JV softball players. What a douche.