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Pop Warner Football Smackdown: Games Over, Fights Erupt at FPC—Between “Adults”

| October 13, 2014

As the sun fell on an afternoon of Pop Warner football games at Flagler Palm Coast High School's stadium, the fights began. (Flagler Falcon Football)

As the sun fell on an afternoon of Pop Warner football games at Flagler Palm Coast High School’s stadium, the fights began. (Flagler Falcon Football)

It was an embarrassment and a shame.

The sun was setting. The Pop Warner football games were over between the Flagler Falcons and the Daytona Beach Buccaneers Saturday at Flagler Palm Coast High School. The youngest—ages 5 to 7—had just played, and in a game that wasn’t even scored. It didn’t matter.

That’s when the smack talk began. Not between the children, who proved to be the grownups Saturday evening, but between adults who’d been on the sidelines, who taunted, jeered, derided, got in each other’s faces. When it was over, several people had been punched, kicked, thrown and abused in other ways (all of them “adults”), and at least three ended up hospitalized at Florida Hospital Flagler, one of them with a bloody ear.

No arrests were made, because the hooliganism took place before Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, and people had been streaming out of the stadium when the fights began—all apparently from the same exit, which may have contributed to tensions turning into brawls.

But all this, keep in mind, at Police Athletic League-chartered Pop Warner games designed to give very young children a learning experience on the field, by adults they presumably trust to behave as such. Saturday evening, the adults did not.

“We’re talking about a game where there are absolutely no benefit from winning or losing, it’s about learning the game,” said Tracy Risby, president of PAL. She was not at the games Saturday, but had been piecing together information on what had taken place. “This doesn’t happen in a bubble, and people just move on from this? No, no no,” Risby said, speaking of measures that will be taken to “make sure that something like that doesn’t happen again,” including parental education on how to be a fan.

Several adults were hurt. No children were involved, but they witnessed their elders fighting.

Jesse Waters, 20, a resident of Palm Coast, was at the Emergency Room at Florida Hospital, with an injured ear, when he told a cop that at the end of the game he and others were waiting for players near the weight room, which is where the Daytona coaches were standing. The coaches, according to Waters—as reported in the deputy’s incident report—“became verbal with him and his parents, then “got in their faces and a white coach pushed his father and a large black coach pushed his mother, causing them both to fall on the ground. Jesse then advised he motioned forward towards the coaches and his parents, at which time one of the coaches grabbed his arm and spun him around causing him to fall.” While he was on the ground, “numerous coaches began to punch and kick him.”

Bonnie Waters, 50, was also at the ER with an injured wrist. She said the coaches were threatening her husband and son to “kick their ass.” When her husband told the coaches that the game was over and that it was time to leave, the men approached and got in his face. Bonnie tried to hold back her husband and son as the shouting match was going on. A large man shoved her to the ground. Her son (Jesse) shoved the man back, and before long Stephen Waters—Bonnie’s husband—was on the ground. When Bonnie saw her son being kicked and punched while he was down, she tried to come to his aid only to be picked up and thrown “like a rag doll.” In an email, she later wrote that her son had “much more severe than a bloody ear,” the extent of his injuries noted in the incident report. “He suffered a broken nose, broken sinus cavity and a broken rib.”

Stephen Waters, too, was seen by ER staff. “He was also punched and kicked while on the ground,” Bonnie Waters said in her email.

Bonnie Waters told cops she wanted to press charges and have the assailants pay for her son’s injuries, though it was impossible to determine who had been the primary aggressor. There were no surveillance cameras on the scene.

At the stadium, Rose Roland, the wife of the Daytona Beach PAL commissioner, told cops that the contest was “heated” from the beginning, though commissioners representing both teams spoke and shook hands before the game, before going back to their respective sides. But at the end of the game Roland said the Daytona fans began taunting Flagler with chants of “nah nah nah hey hey hey goodbye,” which upset parents.

Children, of course, were witnessing it all.

When the Daytona team walked off the field through a fence that had appeared “broken,” Rose said that a man with “big things in his ears” accused the Daytona side of tearing down the fence, and matters escalated. Roland said she, too, was knocked to the ground as she was trying to get the children away from the loud man. She couldn’t tell who had pushed her, only that a large group of people had been in close proximity of each other and that it was not “any one person’s fault, it was both teams pushing each other.” Thomas Roland told cops he and his wife were knocked over while they were trying to break up the fighting.

Steve DeAugustino, the athletics director at FPC, had heard of the fight by Monday. The fence was n ot broken, he said, but had merely come unattached in one spot and would be a “quick fix.” He described the events Saturday as “a shame,” and he was considering some action.

“If there’s that kind of trouble, we may require for them to use the facilities a sheriff’s deputy, security, whatever,” DeAugustino said this afternoon.

Another witness told police that tensions rose in the stands because “Daytona Beach coaches were arguing with all calls on the field and during the last play there was a child hurt and the Daytona team began chanting,” according to the incident report. The witness described the Daytona side as having bad sportsmanship, but he stressed that the children were never involved in the fights. Only adults.

Four games were scored that afternoon, with Flagler winning the pee-wee and midget games, and Daytona winning the junior pee-wee and junior midget games. Then the youngest played, without scoring. Risby said parents misunderstand what goes on because they’re used to watching college and professional football on television. Rules, not to mention purpose, behind Pop Warner football are different. “Parents didn’t agree, didn’t like or were confused by the rules,” Risby said, “and it got contentious over that.” Having just one exit after the game may not have helped matters, Risby said.

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22 Responses for “Pop Warner Football Smackdown: Games Over, Fights Erupt at FPC—Between “Adults””

  1. confidential says:

    Nothing new…I have seeing the Little League coaches and parents cussing and threatening each other during and after games “up North” too during the 80’s and 90’s. Was to rough for my son and us and he didn’t want to join when invited. But I don’t recall happening at school games.

  2. Proud Falcon Parent says:

    This program does so much good through out the year and you guys never publish anything about them… but once, just once they have an issue and here you come… we didn’t even think you guys knew this program existed. But I guess media loves drama.

    • A Pop Warner Parent says:

      This is not how our associations are run. These parents are an embarrassment and I am disappointed that the great things our athletes do are not recognized instead! Things like the 49 athletes in our association who are honor students, many of whom volunteer in their communities and are fantastic leaders for their teammates. The coaches who bring half his/her team to practices and games so they get the chance to play. Or how about the hours and hours……and HOURS of time put in by the volunteers year round to raise money and keep the organizations running, the coaches who study plays and cheer routines to teach our kids. These selfless people are not the same parents that just show up for the game carrying an attitude of entitlement and anger. There are always a few families that are difficult and everyone knows who they are and pray that they don’t cause problems. It makes us very sad when a child is asked not to come back due to the actions of his or her parents. The people that make up the majority of a Pop Warner association work hard for the benefit of its families and want our kids to have a safe and fun season… or lose! These days are the memories our children will have for the rest of their lives. They shouldn’t have to witness this disgusting display of immaturity! Please find stories about the good in others instead of scaring new families away from an organization that provides such positive life experience.

  3. A.S.F. says:

    The parents and coaches should all be ashamed of themselves. It’s too bad that the children had to have their experience ruined by adults who cannot control themselves. Sports can teach children a lot about life–both good and bad.

    • Carol Marino says:

      I agree with you. Apparently children are learning very early on that engaging in sports these days can be traumatic, when in fact it should be a learning and bonding experience. What we are witnessing is adults teaching children everything that they should not be learning. We try hard to teach our children to be kind, thoughtful and caring on a daily basis. Then adults (coaches and parents) contradict our teachings and have an out and out brawl in front of the kids. Maybe the answer is no parents allowed at sports games….and no coaches. Let the kids play by themselves. They would probably enjoy it without all the trauma.

  4. Nikia says:

    Coaches, really? Classy folks! Definitely reassuring that no children were fighting only adults! Love that they didn’t understand since most teams we have dealt with as parents required that we sign an agreement that the adults would not act that way. I find it hard to believe these adults didn’t have to sign off on something similar through PAL.

  5. Tyron says:

    Ebony and Ivory live together in peaceful harmony !!!!!! Ah, maybe not here in Palm Toast .

  6. Ol' Sarge says:

    As a former coach of the same age group here locally, I can tell you two things:
    1-my experience with the same Daytona team was almost identical, although in Daytona. The parents were heckling and yelling at the kids and the coaches were the most unprofessional, classless people
    I had ever seen.
    2-the local Pop Warner/PAL organization has done almost nothing to slow what promises to be an increasingly volatile situation. I have personally watched coaches get accosted and even punished by the organization because parents began to fight in the stands. Because the coaches are asked to speak to the parents at the beginning of the season about such behavior, it suddenly becomes the coaches fault.

    These parents are supposed to be the examples and teach team play and class…instead they are breeding another generation of thugs and hoodlums…it’s practically abuse.

  7. Seminole Pride says:

    Obviously these were parents who were never involved in organized sports, and do not understand the game, or the real meaning of the game. Teamwork, Unity and Sportsmanship. Is this the behavior and attitude you want your child to see ? It all starts at home.

  8. Jenifer Clines says:

    I was at the game, my son played right before the tiny mites on the mitey mites which they did not mention but we won, anyway during this game daytona was very volatile, we have to deal with them every year, this is my sons 4th year playing. Daytona has no sportsmanship, they teach these kids how to hurt others. During the game one of the daytona coaches high fived there player for injuring one of our players. Then at the end one of our players was injured laying on the ground holding his neck and daytona fans started cheering and then chanted na na na na hey hey hey goodbye. They daytona coaches were all egging them on to keep going. That pissed off a lot of flagler fans. This is a tiny mite game where no scores are kept and they are going to act like that. When we were on our side we were yelling at them to go back to daytona, but apparently when the flagler fans were leaving, the daytona coaches and some other adults from daytona were standing along the fence waiting to heckle flagler as they left. Something needs to be done about daytona, every year it is always something with them, but this was way over the top. You don’t teach kids that this is how you behave, these kids are trying to learn the game.

  9. Seminole Pride says:

    Great minds talk about concepts. Small minds talk about people.

  10. Daytona Thugs says:

    There’s a reason why, when Daytona Beach Pop Warner host the games at their home field, they have a police command center set up and a SWAT team present.

  11. Larry Baker says:

    With immature adults acting like that why go back, ever? Sports often brings out the worst in some people, whether they act like these morons, beat their wives/kids or just get stupid because they just have to much money. Yes it is good to give the kids a good experience but at what cost. Sports is not everything in life… it is just entertainment, for the most part.

  12. Shelia says:

    Unfortunately this is a common problem. If the parents would stay out of it things would be fine. I was an umpire for many years for girls fast pitch softball and for boys baseball. Same thing would happen. The umpire is in control of the field. If things like this happen you stop it immediately. If the coaches are unable to act in a reasonable way then they are TOLD TO LEAVE. Period!!! I have banned parents from the field because of there unsportsmanlike behavior. The coaches in the Daytona League should be asked to resign and not attend any more games. It’s very sad kids can’t just go and play ball without the parents being a bully.

  13. Bawanna says:

    Because society is NO LONGER “honorable, trustworthy, loyal, kind, compassionate” parents should NEVER EVER let their children under 21 play ANY sports where the public is watching them on the sidelines or in stands. Society has become ” TRIBAL ” and with that said I leave you now to go sharpen my “spear” !

  14. Carol Marino says:

    I am really turned off by the Pop Warner Organization right now. It can be hard for a coach to teach good sportsmanship to children. I appreciate their efforts and try not to interfere. However, this past Saturday, October 11, 2014, was uncalled for as far as the cheerleaders go. What adult thought up the idea to force little girls to vote for one another and elect a “queen” as some called it?. We signed up for cheerleading where girls help one another to be the best they can be, not to single out a particular teammate as better than the rest. Five and six year olds are just learning to write their own name let alone write down the name of who they think should win a popularity contest. Call the contest what you will… (adults who dreamed this up). It was hurtful and ended up causing little girls to cry because they were not “good enough” to win. Children are fragile at this age and it is a shame that an adult felt it necessary to make the losers perceive the feeling that they just did not measure up. The adults who were involved in this need some sensitivity training. Sending the message to young girls that how they appear is actually more important than what they are like on the inside. This is unacceptable and on the side of emotional abuse. No child should judge another child. EVER. This can start bullying at schools and the development of a host of other social problems and insecurities. Cheerleading is a team sport where girls depend on one another for safety. How can one be sure that little girls may not take losing very well, become vindictive and purposely make the “winner” fall or get hurt? This could happen because they are children and think like children ,not understanding the consequences. We signed up and paid close to $400.00 for the girls to learn cheerleading…to depend on one another…to form new friendships….to encourage one another and build each other up. In about 30 minutes time, good self esteem was lost, tears were shed and in the blink of an eye, friends as team mates became enemies. To put salt in the wound, what is even worse is the little girl cheerleaders on the Challenger Squad (mental, physical disabilities just to name a few) also had the same contest. This is just cruel. These special little girls need all the love and acknowledgement that we as society can give to them. There should be a community and national outcry to protect these children. They must be valued and complimented for who they are. Pop Warner should never make them feel less than perfect for even a moment. They have every day struggles that most of us can’t even imagine.
    It is my sincere hope that this type of event will no longer be allowed.

  15. Joy says:

    Shameful. Just shameful.

  16. Buc Parent says:

    The Cops took their time and the kids we’re disappointed with the way those drunk parents came over from Flagler side. I will fight for my children until I get a better result.

  17. TJ says:

    This was my daughters first year cheering for PAL and I’ll tell you we will NEVER be back, I consider it to be the absolutely worst experience of her life and shes only 11. The Coaches, PAL and the parents behave in the worst way, these kids are yelled at and made to feel like they are not important only winning. I am disgusted with every game and practice that I attend, these children are witness to Flagler counties finest and I say that sarcastically, the parents curse in the stands and yell at their kids from the stands, I have personally never seen a Coach intervene to stop this behavior or anyone from the league address the issue. Coaches are just as bad. I agree about the King and Queen contest, this is football and cheerleading for 5year olds on up, why do we need a popularity contest. These kids have suffered enough just being part of this train wreck this season.

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