Coaching from a wheelchair no obstacle for this coach

Football: Brian Schiner teaches Howard County youths to play despite an accident that left him unable to participate in sports.

Howard At Play

September 19, 2004|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Brian Schiner spends hours as a head coach for the Western Howard County Warhawks, a youth football organization. He guided the club's 7- to 9-year-olds through summer practices during which they trained five days a week, and now he is leading them through a 10-game schedule in the Central Maryland Football League.

The Mount Airy goat farmer is the driving presence at practices and games, and his being in a wheelchair is simply accepted.

Schiner was paralyzed from the chest down in January 2001 in a botched scuba dive in Jamaica. He was no longer able to play sports after the accident, but he never lost his desire to coach.

Months after the accident, he was coaching lacrosse, but health problems kept him from making it through the season.

Schiner, who had coached football for several seasons before the accident, returned to coaching after that season.

"When I'm coaching, I don't think about anything else," Schiner said. "Pushing my wheelchair up and down the football field is tough, but I'm getting used to doing it."

Schiner has adjusted to a number of new things since the accident. The partners in his insurance business bought him out, which, he said, and that, in addition to a legal settlement stemming from the accident, helped make him financially comfortable.

He had been raising horses for years and enjoyed foxhunting. Now, he owns 51 acres and leases 80 more, and he said he is the largest producer of goat meat in Maryland. He also has cattle, sheep and horses.

But working with sports - especially football - remains his passion.

"I had one parent in lacrosse take their child off my team because I was in a wheelchair," Schiner said. "But in football, everybody knew who I was and it was never an issue."

Devin Shewell, a third-grader at Resurrection-St. Paul School in Ellicott City, said he just sees Schiner as a good football coach.

"I feel sorry for him because he's in the wheelchair," Devin said. "But he's a great coach, and he's nice to be around."

Schiner's son Ben, an eighth-grader at Folly Quarter Middle School, said, "I don't think I heard a single person ask about it last year."

Devin's father, Tom Shewell, has been a friend of Schiner's since their childhood in the Randallstown area. Schiner played for Randallstown High and one year at Frostburg State University before transferring to Towson University and playing as a linebacker.

Tom Shewell, the Warhawks' offensive coordinator, said Schiner is basically the same person he was when they were growing up.

"He does it like he doesn't have a disability," Shewell said. "He doesn't like people to help him and likes to do it all himself. He coached for years before the accident and just keeps going."

Schiner "puts the same time and effort into it as any other coach," said Mike Milani, a sports supervisor for the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks who helped establish the Central Maryland league two years ago. "I have never had anyone complain about Brian being in a wheelchair."

Schiner said he works to keep the football lessons basic for his players.

The Warhawks use the single-wing formation, which lets them concentrate on basic running and blocking skills.

"I keep it real simple," Schiner said.

His approach has worked: The Warhawks were 3-0 going into this weekend.

Schiner coached a team of 11- to 13-year-olds to a league championship last season and wants the younger age group to reach a title game.

"That's my goal," Schiner said. "I'm confident we're going to get there and win."

Schiner has also coached baseball, soccer, lacrosse and basketball. Football, though, seems to be his love.

"I played lacrosse, I played basketball and all that, but football was my main sport as a kid," Schiner said. "Now I just like coaching football more than anything else."

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