How to behave on a practice field CARROLL COUNTY

December 07, 1992

If Westminster High School football coach Jeff Oeming and his star receiver Micah Steven Shaffer had behaved better, an alleged assault on young Shaffer during football practice last Labor Day never would have occurred nor would the matter have ended up in the legal arena.

Mr. Oeming never should have used the kind of force he reportedly did to subdue his star receiver; the player never should have been so insolent to his instructor.

Football is an aggressive sport. Sometimes, in the heat of games, things get out of hand. Ohio State coach Woody Hayes is remembered for jumping onto the field and tackling the opposing team's ball carrier, who had eluded the Ohio State defenders. At practices, coaches often yell, taunt and push their players to get them to hit harder. In such surroundings, force rather than logic is used to settle arguments -- with unfortunate results.

At the high school level, there should be more to playing ball than winning. High school coaches are under tremendous pressure to produce winning teams, yes, but they are also in the business of molding young men. They should be instructing these students on teamwork, sportsmanship, proper behavior and the rewards of dedication.

In many cases, student athletes hold their coaches in higher reverence than they do their own parents. Coaches should not take lightly their role in developing young people.

From accounts about the Oeming-Shaffer incident, Micah's behavior toward his coach was inappropriate. Mr. Oeming is an adult. Regardless of what people think of his coaching ability, the teen-agers on the Westminster team owe him respect because he is their teacher. If Micah's behavior was inappropriate -- he allegedly cursed Mr. Oeming -- and getting out of hand, Micah should have been warned he would be suspended from the team. If Micah had continued to use profanity against his coach, Mr. Oeming could have properly thrown him off the team.

Prosecutors decided that Mr. Oeming's alleged grabbing and shaking of Micah's face mask and then wrestling the teen-ager to the ground was not a criminal misdemeanor. It was, however, a very bad example of how to handle a disrespectful player. We hope the county's other athletic coaches and team members learned some lessons from this unfortunate incident.

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