Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1st meet wrap up

In response to questions, yes, my sister Kathy O'Connell who has been riding the bike at XC meets since I finished running CYO Cross Country, suffered two fractures, in her sacrum and pelvic bones, and is still suffering from concussion symptoms. After the start of the cadet boys race, I accompanied her to University of Pennsylvania hospital, where she is still recovering and receiving treatment. She is expected to be discharged soon and go through approximately 6 weeks of recovery aided by crutches. On behalf of my family, Immaculate Conception and Philadelphia CYO XC, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks for the prayers and concerns of everyone who has contacted us and Mary Ellen this past week, and everyone who pitched in to help out Sunday after her accident. We ask for your continued prayers for a speedy recovery.

I believe that 2 people have volunteered to ride the bike for the rest of the season, but if you are interested in helping out, please email Mary Ellen.

In response to this incident, and others, Mary Ellen Malloy our CYO Cross Country Coordinator has sent the following email to our CYO coaches. I think it is important for everyone involved in CYO Cross Country to read, and please note there will be 2 Sub-Novice races ( girls then boys) from now on (barring extremely low turn out), as we didn't even have all the registered runners in the race this past Sunday.

To all,

This past Sunday we had a bad accident at the Plateau. Our biker lady, Kathy O'Connell, crashed and was seriously injured. While I cannot place the blame on any one person, I feel that the situation was made much worse by the failure of several people, myself included. While none of her injuries are life threatening, she is on injured reserve for the rest of the season. This accident throws the light on a number of break downs that must be corrected before anyone else is injured.

First and foremost, all bikers need to wear a helmet. This is not an option.

Second, marshals need to marshal. They need to understand their assignment and do it. All marshals need to wear the blue shirt so they can be identified quickly (this was an important issue on Sunday). All marshals need to show up for their assignments. As insignificant as each position may seem, there is a need for each one. If you do not understand what you have to do, ASK! The problem was made worse on Sunday because people were allowed in the woods (this has always been a definite no-no) and the marshals did not have walkie-talkies so there was no way of communicating to the people in the woods. Kathy may have been unconscious for 15 minutes or more but no one who was close enough to her knew she was there. The first three people to her aid came from the start or finish line on the Plateau. That is a long way to go when there are marshals already in the woods.

Marshals are there for the safety of the runners. We need to keep the woods clear of all spectators. With the recent history of incidents in Belmont, we do not want any adults back there who are not marshals. Marshals have to be able to tell non-runners in the woods that they must leave. No questions asked. Most of these people are parents of our runners and they should have been told by the coaches that they are not permitted in the woods in the first place. Marshals also need to communicate to each other. The biker follows the last runner but no one thought anything of the fact that the biker did not come out of the woods. No one thought that she did not come down suicide hill. Marshaling means more than just watching the races. You are responsible to know what is happening around you. From this point on, each marshal will have a walkie-talkie and communicate when the biker has passed your position and the last runner is through. This will be a means of monitoring the race and alerting the marshals when their assignment is finished.

Some of the parents can be a real pain in the butt. They will give you attitude and lip when you tell them they cannot do something that they want to do. If you have a problem telling someone they cannot do something, then find someone else in the parish who is willing to do the assignment. But it needs to be done.

For those parishes that chose not to do assignments or chose not to wear the shirts or chose to be in the wrong spot for marshals, the only recourse I have is to disqualify the parish for the day. It may hurt the children but that is your responsibility. The possibilities for disaster are enormous when someone does not show up for an assignment or does not do their assignment properly. That was demonstrated on Sunday.

These issues are not open for discussion. We need to keep everyone's safety foremost in our ways.

Other thoughts from Sunday:
  • The subnovice race will be two races from now on: female and then male. Too many kids in one race.
  • The marshals on the cadet course sent the runners too far around the baseball backstops.
  • It is the coaches' responsibility to make sure the parents know what the rules are. Tell them where the restricted areas are.
  • Parents need to back off the chute for the subnovice races. Part of the problem was the kids could not leave the chute because the parents were blocking the exit.
  • All access road workers had best show up this weekend.

This weekend brought out the very worst of the parents and the very best of the parents. Some of the subnovice parents were downright nasty when they are asked to back away from the finish chute. I haven't heard that language in a long time. Yet, when Kathy went down, there were some wonderful parents and coaches who stepped in and helped without being asked. To the medical personnel who assisted, my sincere thanks go out to you. To the folks who stepped in at the finish line when I went into the woods, I am indebted to you. To Paul Stearns who manged to drive his car UP parachute, I am eternally grateful. About 98% of our coaches and parents are absolutely wonderful people. The remaining 2% were out in force on Sunday and it saddened me deeply to see that from a CYO organization. Please remind your parents that they are examples to their children all the time, not just when they think the kids are watching.

Results will be out tomorrow. Please forgive the delay this week.

Mary Ellen Malloy


Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to hear about Kathy O'Connell's accident and resulting injury. This is the first that I have heard of it. We are all wishing her well and our continued thoughts and prayers are with her.

Terry, thank you for the update and all that you do to keep CYO XC going and growing. I thought that last week was wonderful although, the difficult parents are hard not to spot. Thank you aslo to Mary Ellen Malloy for all that you do. Again, none of this is possible without you folks.

Grace said...

We are very saddened about what happened to you Kathy.We hope for a quick recovery and hang in there things will definitely get better.I'm cheering you on and on and on and on!

Coach MikeMMR said...

My family and I try to make a point at the end of each race and season to thank Kathy for the real hard job of biking EVERY race. Our prayers are with her for a speedy recovery.

I used to enjoy running (and coaching) because of the absence of Little League parents. I think it's up to the coaches to monitor their parents to keep this nasty little trend from growing. If you believe St. John Baptist de La Salle's reminder that we're always in the holy presence of God, then we should be treating Belmont Plateau as a sacred, respectful place.