A school district in Virginia said it received a peculiar report last week from one of its junior varsity girls basketball games: An assistant coach for the Churchland High School Truckers had stepped on the court on Jan. 21, and played against teenagers.
The assistant coach, Arlisha Boykins, who had been working at Portsmouth Public Schools since August last year, was no longer an employee for the district as of Jan. 25, when school officials confirmed the report, a spokeswoman, Lauren Nolasco, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The head coach for the team, Jahmal Street, is also no longer working for the school, Nolasco said.
Details of how exactly an adult coaching staff member had managed to put on a jersey and play alongside the teenage athletes in their game against Nansemond River High School were still unclear on Tuesday as the district continued its investigation. No school administrators were at the game, Nolasco said.
WAVY, a television station in Portsmouth, Va., about 98 miles southeast of Richmond, published video clips of the game that appear to show a coach donning a jersey, seemingly competing like any other player.
In the clips, the coach on the court blocks a shot, dribbles past a player and drives to the basket to make a layup, with teammates high-fiving her after the plays, according to WAVY.
It was not immediately clear what role Street played in the episode. Efforts to reach MStreet were unsuccessful on Tuesday. Phone calls placed to a number listed as belonging to Boykins were not immediately returned on Tuesday night. Nolasco said she was unsure of Boykins's age.
The bizarre intervention of the assistant coach in the game eventually resulted in a meeting among administrators, varsity and junior varsity players and their parents, Nolasco said. In the meeting, the players "expressed they did not want to continue this season," she added.
Other teams in the league and officials were notified of the players' decision, Nolasco said.
Churchland High School is not the only school to have dealt with adults posing as teenagers in games in recent years, possibly using experience and size to their competitive advantage.
In Dallas, a 25-year-old man posed as a 17-year-old student and played on a high school basketball team, becoming a star player before he was arrested in 2018 and charged with tampering with government records, The Dallas Morning News reported. He was sentenced to six years probation in 2019, the newspaper reported.
And in Memphis, in 2013, a 22-year-old man was accused of faking transcripts in order to join a high school basketball team, according to Fox 2, a local television station.
Brenda Hilton, the founder of Officially Human, an organization that promotes the respectful treatment of referees across the country, said the details of what occurred in Portsmouth were dispiriting.
"A coach's role is to be an incredible role model for these players," said Hilton, who is also the senior director of officiating at the Big Ten Conference, one of the nation's college sports leagues.
She said she was "amazed" that an adult in such a role would have no shame in acting dishonestly.
"Here's the bigger lesson: You are now telling the rest of this team that it was OK to cheat," she said. "It doesn't matter. Honesty can never get you in trouble."
The coach's actions also raised questions of whether other adults in the gymnasium could or should have done more to prevent it, Hilton said.
"These kids now have a season robbed from them," she said. "Their parents have had a season robbed from them."