By MARINA WATERS
*UPDATE: Athletic Director Josh Kite was also put on administrative leave on Tuesday, Oct. 10, along with David Crockett head football coach Gerald Sensabaugh. Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said due to Sensabaugh’s allegations regarding Kite, an investigation will be ongoing.
On Monday morning, when David Crockett head football coach Gerald Sensabaugh announced via social media that his team’s practice was canceled by the school system, all of Washington County seemed to want answers.
Director of Washington County School Kimber Halliburton said the decision to cancel the Pioneers’ practice came after Sensabaugh practiced an injured player. She said the player was under a physician’s care and was put on a list by the athletic trainer that indicated he could not practice or play. Sensabaugh was put on administrative leave on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Halliburton also said that when confronted about the issue, the coach “responded by intimidating and harassing the trainer and the student in a public format.”
“Given his conduct and him appearing very angry, we made a decision. The principal requested that we not have practice and I honored her request. I allowed her to make that decision,” Halliburton said. “I allow my principals to make decisions about their school and I support them in those decisions because I am not in their school on a daily basis. And I value Peggy Wright as a 33-year veteran of this school district who has been serving students in Washington County for 33 years.”
Sensabaugh told the Herald & Tribune that prior to the teams’ 9 to 11 a.m. practice, which was scheduled on the first week-day of fall break, he didn’t know why his team’s practice was canceled by administrators.
Sensabaugh also said the trainer told the head coach something different.
“He (the trainer) came to me and said, ‘This kid, he’s pretty much good to go. He just needs a little confidence. Maybe you can give him some confidence.’”
“I instructed the player to do some rehab-type drills to give him some confidence in his ankle,” Sensabaugh said. “No full-speed reps. It was more-so jogging and light high knees and a couple cuts. I’ve had sprained ankles in the past and similar things and it’s pretty much what I would do when I had sprained ankles in the NFL. A lot of stuff goes down and the next thing I know, they tell me I practiced a hurt player.”
Sensabaugh said the player performed the drills off to the side and had no physical contact with the team. He also said the player wasn’t dressed out in his helmet or pads.
Both Sensabaugh and Halliburton said that David Crockett High School Head Principal Peggy Wright spoke to Sensabaugh on Friday, Oct. 6 before the team’s match up against Cherokee High School to address her concerns.
After the conversation with Wright, Sensabaugh spoke to the student athlete and athletic trainer.
“Fortunately, the same kid was there. I said, ‘Hey, did I practice you?’ And he was like, ‘No sir.’ I turned around to the trainer said, ‘Hey, why are you reporting I practiced this kid? He just said I didn’t practice him.’ He was just shrugging his shoulders and wouldn’t say anything.”
Halliburton confirmed that one of the team’s assistant coaches has resigned. She also said the trainer felt “bullied” by the head coach.
Halliburton also stated that she and Wright contacted another Crockett assistant football coach to ask if he could lead practice.
“We asked him if he was confident that he could keep the children safe, given the shortage, given what happened with coach Sensabaugh,” Halliburton said. “His response was no, he was not confident he could keep the children safe.
“My number one adjective and the principal’s number one adjective above football is the safety of our student athletes and our children, period.”
Practice for the team was back on schedule for Tuesday, Oct. 10. But Sensabaugh said he was informed by Wright that he was not permitted to coach the team during the practice.
“They’re allowed to practice but I’m not allowed to be there. I’m not even sure which coaches are going to be there,” Sensabaugh said. “Some kids were saying they’re not going to practice and some reports said some kids are going to practice. I don’t know.”
The coach said he supports his players decision, whether some students decide to attend practice or not.
“I mean they’re furious about it. They want to practice. They know they’re good. They’re just taking it away from these kids. They’re taking away the opportunity these kids have.”
Sensabaugh also said he felt the decision to cancel practice has created a divide throughout his team.
“The kids don’t play, there’s no product to sell. Then that is going to be more detrimental to the program, if the kids don’t play,” Sensabaugh said. “If they do play, my fight for change becomes diluted because they still have a product to sell.
“They divided us. Right now I feel like they’re trying to divide my football team. They’re trying to divide the players and the coaches.”
A rally in support of the head football coach for Wednesday, Oct. 11, has been posted throughout social media along with a petition.
On these same social media platforms, Sensabaugh recently sounded off on school system-related topics such as bus routes for the new Boones Creek School, inmates working on school grounds and facility updates at Jonesborough Elementary. He titled the first series of posts as “The real problem in Washington County” which tallied over 100 comments.
Now, Sensabaugh said he still supports his social media postings.
“I just want people to support the change. I just really want people to take initiative and do what’s best for our community,” Sensabaugh said.
“The one thing about social media is you get a direct reception of the people. You get all these people who have all these complaints that they brought about and nothing ever gets done. On my platform, everyone can talk together on the same time and express their concerns or past stories.
“You can take it as ‘he say she say’, but these are people’s testimonies. There are people who signed off on their names on this stuff. I just want to be that voice for the people and the kids.”
The Pioneers are scheduled to face a conference game against Tennessee High School at home this Friday, Oct. 13 in Jonesborough.