Local coach says bear crawls shouldn't be used as a form of punishment

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PECOS -- It's a story that's made headlines nationwide and one of the most viewed on our website.

Two substitute P.E. coaches at a middle school near Austin are in hot water after forcing students to do the exercise "bear crawls" as punishment.

But the bear crawls were not performed on grass or in a gym, but on an asphalt track, leaving several kids with blisters, bruises and even torn skin.

This begs the question, did the punishment fit the crime?

Many of you on social media say yes, but as CBS 7 learned one local school district doesn't agree.

Officials with Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD say bear crawls should never be done on an asphalt track, let alone be used as a form of punishment.

It’s safe to say that nearly all athletes have done bear crawls as part of their training.

If used appropriately, the drill is an excellent conditioning tool and a rite of passage.

“It’s absolutely great, it builds core strength, upper body strength, balance, agility, I mean it can be used in P.E. or any setting,” explained Derick Price.

Price has been coaching track and football in Pecos for the last 12 years.

In that time, he says there’s never been one single complaint of a student injuring their hands as a result of doing bear crawls, and that’s probably because they have strict guidelines when it comes to where this drill can be performed.

“It’s more of an agility, quickness type drill that you’ll do in an indoor setting on a mat, or if you have a turf football field,” said Price. “As long as it’s a short distance, you usually don’t want to bear crawl more than five to 10 yards.”

When Price and Superintendent Jim Haley first heard about the group of students at Florence Middle School getting blisters and bruises on their hands after being forced to bear crawl for allegedly 30 minutes, they were shocked to say the least.

“I was very disappointed that someone would make a decision like that, because it casts a negative shadow over all school districts, and coaches, and administrators,” said Haley. “It was just a bad call on that persons part and it should be addressed by reprimanding that employee.”

Haley says the Texas School Health Advisory Committee recommends all school districts to not use physical exercise as a form of punishment -- a recommendation they follow closely.

As for the two Florence substitute teachers in question, they remain under investigation by CPS and the Florence Police Department.