McMinnville High School Football – Lessons Learned?

The story based out of McMinnville High School in Oregon has just about every media outlet one can imagine.  From the Associate Press to ESPN, the “mystery” of why several high school football players would be hospitalized raises many question and much concern.

The initial national coverage by ABC News was quick (and irresponsible) for jumping on the notion that the supplement Creatine was the likely culprit.


Elevated levels of Creating Kinase in the blood tests of the young athletes admitted in the hospital.

Could Creatine have contributed to the compartment syndrome that resulted in several players actually needing surgery to relieve pressure and avoid permanent muscle damage…or worse?  Yes.

My point is not to defend Creatine.  I do not recommend this supplement to any young athlete and this is a topic to discuss in itself.

My point is that we must start looking at the sports training and conditioning programs that young athletes are engaged in – most often under the direction of a coach and or strength and conditioning coach.

Was the workout these young football players engaged in excessive?  Not according to McMinnville High School Administrators.

Not excessive?   Push ups followed by bench dips in a 115-120 degree room AFTER a conditioning practice out on the field during the hottest day of the year?

That is what I call , “being stupid on purpose”.

What say the players on the McMinnville High Football Team?

“It’s heart-breaking,” injured player Greg Cordie told KGW from his hospital bed. “I love this game… He pushed us too hard, and here we are.”

Cordie’s parents and some others were outraged. Jim Cordie said he’s worried his son’s entire football career could now be ruined.

“This ain’t the NFL, this ain’t college. Stop bringing these college coaches in and pushing these kids so far. They’re still growing. They’re still kids. They just want to play for fun,” he said.

Must be the supplements though right?.  How about rhabdomyolysis?  Guess what one of the primary symptoms is?  Elevated levels of Creatine Kinase.

According to

Rhabdomyolysis (RAB-DOE-MY-O-LIE-SIS) is the rapid destruction of skeletal muscle resulting in leakage into the urine of the muscle protein myoglobin.”

“Myoglobin is a protein component of the muscle cells that is released into the blood when the skeletal muscle is destroyed in rhabdomyolysis. Creatine kinase is an enzyme (a protein that facilitates chemical reactions in the body) also in the muscle cells. The level of each of these proteins can be measured in blood to monitor the degree of muscle injury from rhabdomyolysis.” Myoglobin can also be measured in samples of urine.”

Hard work pays off.  I am a beliver in that, but it needs to be smart work.

Young athletes are not little adults.

There is an absolute art to training kids how to become better athletes.  Every coach will have a different ethos, philosophy and training style.

The style of coaching must be rooted in the science and practicality of working with young people.

Yes kids adapt, yet this mantra does not suffice when most coaches cannot adequately explain what it is they are actually asking young athletes to adapt to.

Ultimately it is the head coach and strength coach that bears the responsibility for this tragic situation in McMinnville.  Let this be a shot across the bow to coaches in our community (in all sports) to do what is right.


~Coach Dave




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  1. Jeff Milton says:

    At what point can parents step in and question the training routine of a high school coach? I’m sure that some of these kids had told their parents that the coach was really pushing them and parents just trust the coaches.

  2. Coach Dave says:

    A parent has every right to question the training routine of a high school coach. Every right. The willingness of the coach to respond – in an appropriate manner all depends on the coach.

    Trust is huge issue here…and in this case the trust has been broken. I will futher answer your question, Jeff in a follow up blog post as it is deserving of more attention than a reply here. Liz – one of the factors that a coach of any young athlete cannot control…nutrition. It was probably a factor here. However there is no reasonable answer as to the training regimen and conditions these kids were placed under. I am going to contact Carlo Alvarez of St. Xavier (best H.S. strength coach in the country) to get his opinion as well.

  3. Dave, I couldn’t agree more!!

    I’ve watched overweight coaches blowing their whistles sending players from one side of the field to the next without any reason or rest, when they wouldn’t even be able to run 10m.

    Thank goodness we have guys like yourself, the IYCA and Athletic Revolution out there!



  4. Carlo Alvarez says:

    I’ve read your post and you bring to light some good points. I’ve actually been doing my own research on this story.

    I have to agree with the irresponsible reporting from ABC. In situations like these, its easy to find a quick answer and someone to blame rather than spending the adequate amount of time researching the story. This could have serious negative repercussions for administrators, coaches, trainers and the medical staff. I’m sure the administration is performing their own internal investigation and summer / two-a-days protocol will be adjusted.

    Jeff Milton mentioned in your post, at what time should the parents question the coaches routine? My answer is ALL THE TIME. Its extremely important for parents to have a clear understanding of what type of program his/her son or daughter will be utilized to improve their physical development. Does it take into consideration age-specific exercise menus, base level of conditioning or even physiological maturity. From experience, we have learned that not all programs can be created equally for high school athletes. All athletes entering high school mature at different levels and that should be taken into consideration when training athletes in a group or by team.

    I believe we must ask specific questions to determine what led to this problem and what went wrong during this specific conditioning day. These simple questions will allow is to draw more specific conclusions as to the possible reasons for the emergency.
    – Was this Varsity, JV or Freshman level?
    – What level of conditioning were these athletes exposed to prior to this incident?
    – What type of protocol have they used to train the football team in previous weeks?
    – What level of hydration/dehydration was present at the time of the incident?
    – What type of rest to work ratio was present during the workout session?

    Research has proven that anyone of these factors can have a negative impact on muscle dehydration, swelling and breakdown. Its effect can vary depending on the age of the athlete and conditioning level.

    Parents, coaches and administrators must understand that the development of the young high school athlete must be divided into levels. The progression must start once they arrive their freshman year and progress through levels from sophomore to senior year as they show maturity, understand the program and can begin to adapt to the higher volume and workloads.

    Developing an Annual Plan that allows athletes at different levels to adapt over the length of the year can help athletes transition from training phases. Its important to remember that work adaptation is a function of indivdual capacity. Give the athletes a chance to adpat to the higher workloads by progressing them over the course of extended time periods. This will help them avoid injuries and reduce the possibility of overtraining, which in turn will help athletes have a productive summer and season.

    Carlo Alvarez
    Strength & Conditioning
    St. Xavier High School

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