Coaches walk away from Myrtle Beach pro football team over field conditions

Coaches walk away from football team due to poor field conditions

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach is the home of a new professional football team, giving local fans a chance to get their fix and players a chance to chase their dreams.

The inaugural season hasn't been smooth sailing though, as three coaches walked away from the team.

Those coaches spoke to WMBF News about why they believed the team's owner could be to blame for recent player injuries.

"How many times did Tim tweak his knee?" asked former Myrtle Beach Freedom Offensive Line Coach Harold Kane. "And Nate, one of my D-lineman, groin!"

Harold Kane and Tom Martin rattled off a long list of player injuries as they walked around the practice field they said is partly responsible.

"Two hundred 80 pounds and you try to push off on some dirt, something's going to give," Kane said as he demonstrated a line drill.

Martin and Kane are two of the three coaches to recently walk away from the Myrtle Beach Freedom in its inaugural season. Then-head coach Ryan David walked out at the same time.

They said the lack of resources for the players was something they could no longer support.

"We decided to stand together. We had enough," said Kane. "You've got to start thinking about the players. Money, money's not everything. Think about the safety of these guys."

The two said the concerns about player safety all start at the practice field. They said it's unlevel, unkept and unfit for a professional football team.

"Every one of my lineman that I had had at least one or two or three injuries just doing what we do," Kane said.

Those concerns went beyond the practice field. The former coaches said the game field worries them even more.

"If you were there, you would say, 'Why are these guys playing on this field?,'" Kane said.

"It just became unethical, and we all have integrity. So, we walked," said former strength coach Tom Martin.

Looking at game field from the team's last home game against the Georgia Firebirds, one of the things that caused the coaches concern was the barrier around the field.

Instead of padded boards like most arena football fields, the Freedom's field has plastic barriers held up by water barrels.

At one point in the game, a player is hit into the side and water splashes up from the barrel onto the slick cement flooring. Coaches said that's not even their biggest concern.

"I was shocked when I saw the turf come in," said Kane. "It looked like something you could buy at Home Depot or Lowes."

In that same game film, a Georgia Firebirds running back is seen getting the ball and diving into the end zone. At the same time, the turf folds up at the two-yard line, tripping up players.

The film shows two more plays later on in the game that emphasized the same problem.

In one play, the turf rolls up at midfield, tripping over the offensive line. The quarterback still gets off the pass and two players fight for it over more rolled-up turf in the end zone.

Underneath the turf, there is little to no padding.

"First two games, we played on concrete with no matting underneath," Kane said. "Now, the matting we got is less than a quarter-inch thick."

In one game, the Myrtle Beach Freedom lost their star quarterback, who twisted his ankle on the turf.

The opposing team lost another player to a compound fracture in his leg.

"You've got torn hamstrings, muscles in their thighs, we've got knees that are being popped. We're getting back injuries from the carpet moving," Kane said.

The former coaches said the other teams in the league don't have these issues, and players notice it.

Game film from an early away game in Central Florida showed what the coaches called a more professional field.

A look at the rest of the teams in the division showed that their fields were similar, with no water barrels or turf that folds up.

The coaches said they've asked ownership to make changes or investments in the field, but nothing ever happened.

They added that this isn't about them; it's about protecting the players and their dreams to make it big.

"I don't think the guys ... they're still living in the emotion of living the dream, and they're going to look back, when they begin to process this, (that) the coaches leaving made a stand for them," Martin said.

Myrtle Beach Freedom Owner Ronnie McCuin said the former coaches never vocalized these concerns to this extent until now.

"I'm a little taken aback by (them saying) this is the reason why they decided to leave," McCuin said.

He added that the practice field is not perfect, but he hasn't seen the major injuries the coaches claimed.

As for the playing field, the team is still working out the kinks.

"We're a brand new team, we're halfway through our first season. We're still learning," said McCuin. "I'm not going to sit here and say we have everything perfect because we don't. We're trying to make it perfect and trying to get it to where it's not a problem."

McCuin said player safety is, and has been, a major concern for the team. At this point, he added, his former coaches need to move on.

"They did have a part in it as well, and for them to come out and just want to maliciously attack us, the organization that gave them an opportunity, to me, that's not right," McCuin said.

The team has since filled the positions of the three coaches.

They will lead the team in its last three home games. McCuin said he hopes the team will become a staple in the community like the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

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