Preseason party leads to several soccer suspensions

Following a preseason party, 12 student athletes, eight from girls soccer and four from boys soccer, were suspended from their respective teams

The party, hosted by a member of the boys varsity soccer team, took place on Monday, Aug. 26, the first official day of preseason, according to a junior who attended the party. According to the junior, there were at least 35, maybe 40, students present, including members of sports teams other than soccer.

The school found out about the event via a photo shared on social media, according to girls varsity soccer coach Joslyn Vendola.

“A parent had seen the picture on Facebook and turned it into my coach,” a member of the girls varsity soccer team said.

The girls varsity soccer player said she was really surprised when Vendola confronted her. They were on their way to a soccer bonding trip, and it was the last thing that she expected, she said. When Vendola brought the photograph to the two athletes in the photo, they admitted to attending the party and were suspended from the team.

Approximately four days later, the coach learned that more of her athletes had been at the party and asked people to confess, said the member of the girls varsity soccer team.

“We were basically all setting up at Sky-Line, underneath the gazebo, getting ready for practice, and Coach Love and Joslyn came over to us,” girls varsity soccer captain Maya Chan said. “They basically hinted that they knew that more people were at the party and they would like people to step up. It was really, really hard and obviously very uncomfortable and confusing for people like me who had no idea what was going on. But, people started stepping up and apologizing for what they did. And we moved on. Literally, right afterwards, we went back to practice.”

In all, six varsity girls soccer players and two junior varsity girls soccer players were suspended. Four members of the boys team were suspended as well, according to a member of the boys varsity soccer team. All athletes were suspended for 25 percent of the season, in accordance with both the Brookline High School and Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association policies.

According to one girls soccer player who confessed, she felt that it would have been wrong to keep playing while others had to sit on the bench.

“For me to have done the same thing that was against the rules and to not be punished, it would make me feel that I was a bad part of the team and I wasn’t owning up to my responsibilities and being honest,” she said.

She said that the choice to confess was a difficult one.

“As a student, it’s really hard to come forward for doing something that happens every weekend,” she said. “People from all different types of activities, drama and sports, participate in [parties]. It’s something that’s pretty common.”

Everyone at the party who was on the girls soccer team received a suspension, the member of the team said. However, this was not the case for other sports teams, she said.

A member of the boys varsity soccer team, however, said that they did what they felt was necessary and that “everyone who was there fessed up.”

Boys soccer coach Jeff Katz declined to comment.

According to Athletics Director Pete Rittenburg, no other athletes besides soccer players were suspended.

The school gives conse- quences for violating the BHS/MIAA Chemical Health Policy based on evidence presented in three ways: a police report, observation by faculty or staff or self admission. Photographic evidence is not enough to in- cur consequences, but it can be used to compel self-admission, according to Rittenburg.

Rittenburg said that photographs alone are not considered grounds for suspension because they cannot be date-stamped, and the agenda of the person who sent them in is not always impartial.

Assistant Swim Coach Kim Draggoo gave a hypothetical example: what if two friends traveled with their parents in July? The parents could have given the students beer, and pictures could have been taken. If the two friends later had a falling out, one of friends could anonymously send one of the photographs to the sports administration. Without a date-stamp and an unbiased official, such as the police, getting involved, it is hard to tell when students break the policy and when they do not.

When asked whether the coach or Athletic Director needs to investigate a photograph, or has the choice not to, Rittenburg said that he did not know.

“[Photos are] a conversation starter,” Rittenburg said. “Most people around the community, I can’t speak for everyone, will believe that in some ways they are doing a disservice by not presenting the evi dence involved and just saying, ‘What is this about?’”

Though she understands the need for a chemical health policy, the junior who attended the party said that she thinks the policy is unfair.

“The whole rule is stupid because only certain people get found out,” she said. “I know people who lied about being there, who were there, but didn’t get in trouble. It’s not something you can be certain about: who was there and who wasn’t there. I am sure every sport was represented.”

According to Chan, the girls varsity soccer team has learned from this experience. Though the situation was difficult at first, the team has really come together to support each other, she said. Vendola agreed.

“They were very supportive of their teammates, helping with anything that they could, in any way that they are allowed to,” Vendola said. “Getting water, collecting soccer balls, literally doing anything they could to support their teammates. It was not in their best judgement to put them in violation of a rule, but they have been 100 percent honest with me and their team- mates. They did the right thing after they did the wrong thing.”

The team is still hoping to make playoffs, something they have not done in many years.

“That’s our goal,” Vendola said. “It was our goal coming into the season. It is our goal now, and we can still accomplish it. I have all of the confidence in the world in my players.”

Emmanuel D’Agostino and Maya Margolis can be contacted at [email protected]