Mother of Football Player Who Died After Practice Says Coach Admitted Pushing Team

The mother of a high school football player who died after collapsing at practice testified Friday the coach told her he had pushed the team hard.

David Jason Stinson, the former Pleasure Ridge Park High School coach, has pleaded not guilty to charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the death of Max Gilpin, 15, who collapsed while running in 94-degree heat in August 2008 and died three days later.

Gilpin's mother Michele Crockett was prosecution's first witness. Her voice cracked and she wiped away tears at times as she talked about her son, a sophomore offensive lineman who played guitar and worked on cars with his father and grandfather when he wasn't on the field.

Crockett said Stinson told her at the hospital where Gilpin was taken after collapsing that he ran the players hard at practice that day because they were "not hustling and kind of goofing around."

"He said 'I ran'em. I ran'em hard,"' Crockett testified.

Crockett said her son was moaning when she arrived at practice. She said he was having difficulty breathing and was being treated with ice packs on the back of a four-wheeler.

Crockett accompanied her son and another player to the hospital, and Stinson came later in the evening. Crockett said the coach was upset then.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Leland Hulbert said in opening statements Thursday that Stinson ran a brutal practice the day Gilpin collapsed, denying players water and putting winning ahead of safety.

Defense attorney Brian Butler said Stinson ran a tough practice but wasn't responsible for the heat stroke that felled Gilpin and never denied him water. Butler called the prosecution a "witch hunt."

Tom Steltenkamp, a certified athletic trainer who gave a symposium on heat-related illnesses to high school coaches — including Stinson — in June 2008, testified that heat stroke and exhaustion symptoms are not always readily apparent. But he said he only spent 10 minutes talking specifically about heat stroke.

"I do not think they are trained enough," Steltenkamp said.

Steltenkamp said it was a coach's responsibility to monitor how players are managing themselves during practices, particularly in the heat. He said having two players hospitalized following a practice is a "possibility," but is not common.

Stinson's trial is a rare case of a coach being charged in the death of a player. Gilpin died Aug. 23, 2008, at a Louisville hospital of heat stroke, sepsis and organ failure. Medical examiners opted not to perform an autopsy.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks.