Anyone who’s driven up Prairie Avenue or across Dade Boulevard over the last few years can’t have missed all the construction going on at Miami Beach Senior High. So continuous and apparent have been the goings-on that it seemed for a time that the facility was under siege, and to some it appeared that it would never end.
Alas that’s what happens when you undergo a many million dollar overhaul. And despite the omnipresent appearance of construction equipment, none of that tearing down and rebuilding had much effect on the classes, which continued apace throughout the renovations.
Now the construction is complete and, after 47 years Beach High has an all new facility. It’s state of the art, up to the minute, and something both students and alumni can be proud of. There’s a new gym, a new weight room, even new lockers. There’s one small thing though: after all the remaking and remodeling and retrofitting, someone forgot about the football team.
Like the rest of the school, the team is called the Hi-Tides. And like all high schools, there’s an inherent pride in team activities, particularly in football, which is a fabled tradition at Beach High. The team has fielded many a member that would go on to join the NFL, including Duane Starks (Ravens), Terry Cousin (Bears, Dolphins), Dave Thomas (Cowboys), Chad Ochocinco (Bengals) and Samari Rolle (Oilers). And at least two of them — Starks and Thomas — were Super Bowl Champs. In fact, so prevalent is the sport that in 2007 Beach High was one of only 16 schools in the entire country to have four of its alumni on NFL rosters (only four teams had 5 or 6).
Perhaps even more impressive is that Miami Dolphins majority owner Stephen M. Ross is also a Beach High alum. And it is Ross who has come through with $82,000 so that his alma mater’s football team can play on a field not filled with potholes. The Dolphins themselves have matched Ross’s grant, and the resulting $164, 000 should be enough to field the team without them spraining an ankle or breaking a leg.
Unfortunately that good deed got tied down in bureaucracy, so instead of the planned upon September unveiling of Ross Field, the Hi-Tides will be meeting their opponents at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park. At least until November anyway, which is when the Field is now scheduled to be completed.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that though the Hi-Tides will eventually get their new field, they will be playing on it in old uniforms. Yep, you read correctly. Beach High’s football team can’t afford new uniforms. Believe it or not, they haven‘t had new uniforms in five years. That means little Johnny is wearing the very same duds big Johnny wore when he was on the team back in the middle of the decade.
And having to wear hand-me-downs is the positive part of the story. See, while some members might have to wear another man’s old, smelly uniform; others don’t have any uniform at all. And when they do, it’s generally incomplete.
That brings us to Donna Hughes.
Hughes, a familiar face in Miami nightlife, has a son named Kali. Kali’s a freshman this year, and he took a chance on trying out for the Hi-Tides football team. He not only made it (as Left Tackle), but Head Coach Jimenez thinks Kali’s got enough in him to parlay his talent into a scholarship, if not a career.
“This kid’s got it, all right,” Jimenez told SunPost Weekly. “And if he sticks to it, there’s no end to what he can do – on or off the field.”
When Kali told his mom that he’d made the team, naturally she was thrilled. When he added that they’d be wearing old uniforms, she was puzzled. Then she got mad. And like all good moms everywhere, she set out to rectify the situation.
The result: Beach High’s Adopt-a-Player Program.
Yep, beginning this week one can log on to the Miami Beach High website, head over to sports, and be prompted to help out the football team. It’s a novel idea, and it’ll bypass all the budget cuts and bureaucracy that’s keeping the team in tatters.
According to Coach Jimenez, tatters doesn’t even begin to describe the condition of his team’s gear.
“The uniforms are ripped, missing numbers, and incomplete,” says Jimenez. “It’s almost gotten to the point where we’ve gotta share shoulder pads in the middle of a game.”
Of course having a fresh-faced future football star don a ratty old uniform doesn’t do much for a kid’s pride – or their performance. Have you ever tried swaggering in hand-me-downs? It doesn’t work. And for the football team to feel as if they’re a part of the newly-renovated school, they’d like a little love too.
“The entire school is new,” says Assistant Coach Schmidt, who’s been at Beach High for 13 years. “And soon there will even be a new field. It’s a shame these kids have to put on old clothes to play.”
Or, as mom Donna Hughes might say: “Not on my watch.”
In the larger scheme of things, a football team’s uniforms might seem rather trifle. But remember, these are kids we’re talking about; if not yours, then your neighbor’s. And they deserve to walk with their heads held high. Besides, it’s football. An all-American team sport that teaches camaraderie, builds strength and gives these kids a chance to shine. Do we really want our kids looking like they’ve been left behind before they even got started?
To donate to Miami Beach High Football Team log on to the schools web.