The Dimond High football team, suspended for nearly two weeks after reports of "serious inappropriate behavior" by some players, returned to the turf Friday for what was described as a one-hour calisthenics and conditioning workout.
Words superseded action once the 70-plus players lined up in alphabetical order, shoulder-to-shoulder near the goal line at the west end of Dimond Alumni Field.
Their head coach, Bernardo Otero, and two assistant coaches were gone — "released from their coaching positions," according to Anchorage School District.
Addressing the team at the start of practice was Brad Lauwers, a man who bleeds maroon and gold, and he had a message to deliver.
"You need to have perfect stinking behavior," Lauwers told the players in a stern, commanding voice. "I don't want to hear one stinking thing about a football player being late to class, I don't want to hear one stinking thing about a football player doing anything wrong.
"You have to have perfect stinking behavior."
Lauwers, the coach of the Dimond boys basketball team and a Lynx quarterback back in the mid-1970s, told the players to remove any hats or hoods. After practice they were headed to a meeting with ASD superintendent Deena Bishop and they needed to be respectful, Lauwers said.
"You need to impress people," he said. "You can impress them by winning a game, but you need to do it with perfect behavior.
"… A lot of people are wondering about you getting this opportunity, so you have to behave perfect."
The light workout and the serious message marked the return of the Lynx, who forfeited two games before Bishop lifted their suspension — just in time for Dimond's Cook Inlet Conference opener Sept. 8 against East High. Friday's practice, conducted with no pads or helmets, was necessary for players to maintain statewide eligibility requirements for that game.
After going through a series of stretches and drills under the direction of Lauwers and flag football coach Kathleen Navarre, players joined parents and Bishop in the school's auditeria.
There, they listened to Louis Wilson, an East High graduate who is an assistant basketball coach at Grand Canyon University in Arizona. Wilson is in Anchorage this weekend for a family reunion, and the school district asked him to speak to players about conduct, expectations and handling criticism and adversity.
"I'll talk authentically to them about reality," Wilson said before going into the school. "You get to make a choice of how you want to be defined, and you can't let a bad experience define you."
Wilson said he didn't know the details of what happened during Dimond's trip to Fairbanks for an Aug. 18 game against Lathrop.
"I don't really want to know," he said. "I know we're dealing with a hazing issue, and I've heard rumors of all that entails."
Wilson, a college coach for more than 25 years, said hazing is "unfortunately too common" in athletics, including acts that go beyond playful team rituals.
"You can't imagine some of the stories," he said. "It blows you away."
The meeting between players, parents and Wilson lasted a little less than an hour. As people left the school, they passed a handful of television cameras and reporters. Nearly everyone declined to comment, and no one spoke on the record.
One woman said she was glad the Lynx were playing football again. She said she had one question for Bishop and other administrators: "There was more than three coaches. Why did only three get fired?"
The administrative response? "It's confidential," she said.