Police called to remove girls' soccer team from county field in Bluffton

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Police called to remove girls' soccer team from county field in Bluffton

tbarton@islandpacket.com, ccox@islandpackage.com
Published Friday, November 16, 2012   |  467 Words  |  

Bluffton police were called to run the Bluffton High School girls' soccer team off a county field last week.Police were summoned to the Buckwalter Soccer Complex on Nov. 7 after the team and its coach became belligerent when asked to leave because they had not asked ahead of time to use the field, according to Beaufort County spokeswoman Joy Nelson.

Nelson said 60 girls and a coach showed up at the field unannounced, in violation of an agreement between Bluffton High and the county's Parks and Leisure Services, which requires the schools to apply for permission to use the fields.Nelson said Bluffton High athletic director Dave Adams later called interim PALS director Joe Penale and apologized for the oversight.

Attempts to reach Adams on Thursday to confirm his apology were unsuccessful. He did say earlier this week the soccer team was practicing on the field because the high school's field was being used by the football team.

"I've been in touch with the rec center, the (school) district, coaches and everybody involved to get everything settled," he said. "I can't (comment). We're handling it through (PALS) now."Attempts last week and this week to reach the soccer team's coach, Mike Fanning, were unsuccessful.

No one was using the county field at the time, but the Bobcats still needed permission to use it because "it becomes a liability issue for us -- in case, for example, a girl were to break her leg," Nelson said.

"It's about knowing who is out there, what's going on and how long they're going to be out there."

Nelson would not elaborate as to what was said or done by the coaches and players to prompt a call to police.

Attempts Thursday to reach PALS recreation coordinator Shannon Loper were unsuccessful.Officers did not write a report of the incident and no arrests were made, according to Bluffton police Lt. Joe Babkiewicz.

"It must have been very minor," and tempers likely cooled by the time officers arrived, Babkiewicz said.

Parent Danny Orlando, whose 16-year-old daughter was among the girls asked to leave the field, believes police and the county were too heavy-handed in their response.

"There was no need to embarrass the coach as well as the girls by having them escorted off the field by the Bluffton Police Department," Orlando said. "My daughter was devastated, as some of the other soccer team players witnessed the girls being treated as criminals rather than girls striving to perfect their talent as soccer players."

He said the team had practiced on the field earlier that week without incident.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead