All Because of a Piece of String

Recently, a track meet occurred to determine the winner of the Rio Hondo League Championship.  The teams in the meet were South Pasadena High School, coached by P.J. Hernandez, and Monrovia High School, coached by Mike Knowles.  The score was tight, and the championship came down to the very last event, the pole vault.  Monrovia’s girls had given their team the lead, and sat back to watch the final competitor of the day, Robin Laird of South Pasadena.

She lined up, began her run, but stopped.  Went back to the top of the channel, gathered herself, and began again.  The run was good, and she launched herself over the 7’6” bar.  A personal best that won the meet for her team.

Or not.

Knowles, coach for Monrovia, was standing on the sidelines, pointing at his wrist and at Laird.  And that’s when it was discovered that Robin Laird had broken the rules.  She was wearing a friendship bracelet (a braided string bracelet tied around her wrist).  National Federation of State High School Association rules state, “Jewelry shall not be worn by participants.”

A disappointed Laird had to give up her jump, and her team had to give up their championship title.  They did so graciously.  Laird has stated that she took great pains to remove her jewelry before the meet, but forgot about the string bracelet on her wrist.  She was devastated when she found out that she lost the meet for her team.  Hernandez, South Pasadena’s coach, recalls asking Knowles, “Coach, you really want it to come down to this?”

A controversy of sorts has cropped up in the aftermath.  If you read the comments about this story – and there are hundreds and hundreds of them – there is a distinct distaste among some of the commenters.  Why didn’t the coach (Knowles) say something about the bracelet between Laird’s attempts? (remember, she aborted the first attempt, which was well within the rules).  One commenter claims to have been at the meet, and one of Knowles’ own competitors is said to have been wearing jewelry.  The general feeling amongst this group is one of “adhere to the spirit, not the letter, of the rule.”

On the other hand, a rule is a rule.  And the rule says, very clearly, “no jewelry”.  Whether it’s a braided string or a string of diamonds, a bracelet is jewelry.  And Laird was wearing it.

What do you think?  Do you think it was right to deny South Pasadena the win and the championship because one of their players was wearing a bracelet?  Or do you think that that Laird was judged too harshly?

Sports Illustrated

SGV Tribune

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15 Responses to All Because of a Piece of String

  1. Sue says:

    The first thing I thought of as I read this story was the winning jump was only 7’6″?? Really?? The second thing I thought of was it’s too bad. It’s too bad she didn’t see the bracelet, it’s too bad her coach didn’t see it, and it’s too bad the other coach wanted to win like that. To me it seems like the other coach had his eye on that bracelet the whole time and figured that if she did make the jump he’d use that against her and then his team would win for sure. It’s ridiculous that no one said anything about it throughout the competition though.

    Do you know the full rule? Yes, it says no jewelry shall be worn, but does it say the participant is immediately DQ’d b/c of that or do they just give up that attempt? You get 3 attempts at each height so since the rule doesn’t state they are DQ’d, she should have been able to take the bracelet off and attempt the height again. Too bad she didn’t say it was her sweat band and not jewelry! And, if he had a competitor with jewelry on something should have been done about that too.

    • Joy says:

      I agree with you Sue. It does seem like that other coach knew it was there since he was so quick to point it out. It does seem sad he needs/or wants to win like that. It’s pretty close to cheating but I know it’s not.

  2. SKL says:

    I think that what’s done is done, but I also think the rules need to be revisited. A violation such as this should not affect the outcome, because the violation had nothing to do with how good the jump was. Not sure why jewelry isn’t allowed, but would it make more sense to simply fine the team in a case like that? Or is there some way jewelry could give the team an advantage? Should she have been allowed another jump without her bracelet? Should it be arbitrated by neutral parties on a case-by-case basis?

    We could get into technicalities, e.g., the friendship bracelet has no jewels and therefore isn’t jewelry, someone else might have had jewelry on, they don’t always enforce the rule, bla bla bla. But I don’t think it’s healthy to make that much out of a win or loss. Because no matter what, someone has to lose. Half of the time, the loser feels he/she shouldn’t have lost but for something stupid, uncontrollable, or unfair. Part of the sport is acknowledging losses and moving on. If the community is unable to move on, then there’s an unhealthy excess of importance placed on winning / losing. And maybe something needs to change in that respect, too. Why is so much at stake? Does the winner get a lot of money or what? How can we restore a healthy balance in the sport?

    • Laura says:

      On the “no jewelry” rule… My dad was a PE teacher, and spent much of his career as a coach for gymnastics, as well. He always got after me if I ever wore *any* kind of jewelry while playing any game.

      The rule is based upon Safety First. Earrings can easily catch on things – floor mats, opponent’s clothing, whatever – and be torn out of the ear (or nose, or eyebrow, or lip, or whatever). A jammed or broken finger with a ring on it can be lost, because that ring can easily cut off circulation if the ring cannot be cut off. Other jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, anklets, etc. – can be floppy and catch on clothing or apparatus, and pose a potential for injury. The rule is a sound one, and to this day, I don’t wear any kind of jewelry – even the little braided friendship bracelet that Josh made for me – when I play sports.

      • SKL says:

        OK, but as long as it doesn’t enhance the player’s performance, it seems this is an offense that could be fined without the loss of points – assuming it wasn’t discovered in time to remedy the situation. Again, my comment is more for improving things going forward. If the rule was clear that points would be lost if jewelry was worn, then I think, that’s the way the ball bounces.

    • Joy says:

      I feel that any athlete wants to win. Being this was high jumping and it’s kind of an “alone” sport and the girl did her personal best, she’ll never forget it but to suggest an unhealthy love of winning….I’m not sure I agree with you on that. Because if they didn’t have the hunger to win, they wouldn’t be in the sport.

      • SKL says:

        I’m not saying the desire to win is unhealthy. But the inability to let it go if you lose, especially when it’s a whole group that can’t let it go, that’s unhealthy in my opinion. Sports are not supposed to be fought to the death. You can always try again and win next time. What if the Williams sisters never let it go after they beat each other? At some point it stops being about the sport, and that’s when it becomes a problem.

        As a football fan, I’ve watched many games that seemed to end the wrong way due to stupid or unfair stuff. It sucks, but at some point you say, was it a good game (score notwithstanding) or not? Did the players act like athletes or not? At least, that’s how I see it. Sure, there is regret, grief, etc., for the loser – but extending it past a reasonable grieving period is not helpful in my opinion. That’s why I say, even if the outcome was illogical, what’s done is done and we can change it going forward. The young lady should be thinking about how to avoid this problem in the future, not why she shouldn’t be having this problem.

        I’m totally rambling. It was a VERY long night.

  3. mssc54 says:

    So if the string is on your wrist it is a piece of jewelry. Take that same piece of string and tie it in your hair to make a pony tail and it’s a….

  4. LVISS says:


    • Joy says:

      I don’t think there is an advantage LVISS. Jewelry can be dangerous as Laura mentioned above. It can get caught on things. I know if a string bracelet got caught on something it would break before injury but I knew a girl in jr high school who jumped up to grab something out of her locker one day and her ring get caught on one of the hooks you hang your clothes on and she lost half of her finger. Let me tell you, it wasn’t a pretty sight. I”m positive it’s for safety reasons.

  5. Joy says:

    I feel bad for this girl. I really do but no matter how small this seems, it’s against the rules. I also swam and was in gymnastics. It just wouldn’t occur to me not to take my jewelry off to play a sport. It’s just a habit we got into and even though it’s just a “piece of string,” it’s a bracelet. It’s just a shame that her coach or herself didn’t realize it before she jumped. It was the same for my boys when they played sports. Heck, the no “jewelry rule” saved me from having Jason get pierced up sooner! LOL!! It’s always been a rule.

    So, hard as it may seem……my vote goes to……..she broke the rules and shouldn’t have won.

  6. lucy says:

    What a terrible way too lose! I agree that a rule is a rule and everyone should be held to them… but I do think these rules should be revised.

  7. Laura says:

    I agree… rules are rules, and everyone should follow them. But… I also believe there’s an onus on the coaches to play fair. If, in fact, that coach did just happen to see that bracelet at the very last minute, then ok. But I find it hard to believe that he didn’t see it before. AND if they’re going to be this big of sticklers for it… what is the role of the Officials in all of this? Isn’t it part of their job to notice forbidden apparel? Shouldn’t they have noticed the bracelet before she took the field, and shouldn’t they have noticed the other girl that allegedly had jewelry on, as well?

    like I said, I agree that a rule is a rule, and you follow it. But I also think there’s poor sportsmanship, and this coach gets the gold medal for it.

    • Joy says:

      I agree. What you say makes perfect sense. They’re just high school kids after all and “someone” should have noticed.

  8. Nikki says:

    I really did mean to comment on this!!!!

    I do feel bad for her. But rules are rules and can’t be bent for one person. I do however, think their rule book needs a revision. I think all rule books need that at some point, everything needs to be updated. It is an awful way to lose, tough pill to swallow! I bet she’ll be very cautious about this from now on.

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