Allegations against lacrosse coach false, say supporters
Last updated 10/18/2007 at Noon
After other lacrosse parents became aware that a group of individuals approached the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) board on October 8, citing numerous complaints and demanding the removal of head coach Al Schoffstall from the program, they labeled it “sour grapes” from “a small number of people who didn’t react well to the coach addressing behavioral issues on the field.” Schoffstall, a history teacher at Fallbrook High School, coached the junior varsity lacrosse team’s 2006 season and the varsity team’s 2007 season.
“What Coach [Schoffstall] didn’t put up with, and rightly so, was disrespect shown by a few players to the coaching staff, referees and other players,” said parent Lisa Speer-Huett. “He called them on it and that was extremely unpopular. We did have some character issues.”
Huett, who has a son in the eleventh grade in the program, said their experience with lacrosse at Fallbrook High is superior to the one they were involved in back in Virginia, from which they relocated to Fallbrook.
“From the first day I met [Schoffstall], he has been extremely positive; he’s always about the program and the kids,” Huett said. “I believe he always tries to do the best thing for them.”
Coach Schoffstall, in light of the negative allegations made by those who spoke at the October 8 FUHSD meeting, has retained legal counsel. When contacted by phone, he said, “I would like to make comments, but under the advice of my legal counsel, right now, I have to say ‘no comment.’”
Assistant Coach Paul Morgan, a 2006 graduate of Fallbrook High and a student at California State University who continues to play lacrosse at an advanced level, said, “I do respect these people, but it’s not right what they are trying to do to Coach Schoffstall. It’s a personal thing.”
Morgan related an incident in which a varsity player’s parent had to be removed from helping to coach the team due to unsportsmanlike behavior.
“Coach [Schoffstall] talked to him about it and handled it well,” Morgan said. “The man took it the wrong way and went on to become critical of everything the coach did.”
Morgan says the accusations of humiliation and/or intimidation were false.
“[Schoffstall] never did anything like that,” Morgan said. “As far as the 25 ‘families of players’ that signed the petition to have Coach removed, it was 25 individuals who signed the petition. In one case that I personally know of, three members of one family signed it. There are basically three families that are trying to get Schoffstall fired.”
Morgan says the lacrosse program started here in 2001 as a club sport and still is not funded by the school.
For the 2007 (spring) season, Morgan says players were asked to contribute $150 each for a ‘Spirit’ packet that included several basic pieces of team clothing for each player to achieve a ‘cohesive’ look. A little bit also went toward necessary equipment.
“The coach explained the cost,” Morgan said. “One of the parents who said the players were told to ‘pay or they wouldn’t graduate’ doesn’t know what he is talking about. There was no ‘hint of extortion.’”
“Any kid who couldn’t afford it, [Schoffstall] let it pass; he never denied a kid and he never made a kid feel bad about it,” said Huett. “Several parents gave extra [money] so there would be a cushion.”
Huett said the cost to play lacrosse at Fallbrook is significantly less than at her son’s former school in Virginia and less than in many other districts in San Diego County.
“The cost was $300 per season in Virginia, and in addition, players were required to buy a specific type of helmet and gloves,” Huett said.
Morgan says at Fallbrook each player must provide his own Lacrosse gear – stick, helmet, gloves and shoulder pads.
“We are currently hoping to do a group order for those who are interested so we can all look the same and get a reduced cost on the items,” Morgan said.
Parent Traycie Mitchell says Coach Schoffstall encouraged her son to get involved in the sports program last year.
“Coach Schoffstall was his history teacher and asked my son if he was interested in playing,” Mitchell said. “He even gave him one of his own sticks and said, ‘Practice with it until you can get your own.’ He’s been nothing but encouraging and very cool.”
The Mohawk Lacrosse Club that Schoffstall started is designed, like other club teams, to keep players improving during the off-season for high school play.
“I helped out with the club program this summer,” Morgan said. “The startup cost was $300 per player because there were so many initial costs to consider. The fall season cost was able to be reduced to $125. Also, a player could get a reduced fee of $75 if they successfully recruited two other players to the team.”
Morgan, who has played both football and lacrosse for many years, said the allegations of physical abuse are unfounded as well. “It’s no different than any other sport,” he said.
“Anything the players are asked to do is for conditioning purposes,” Huett, a physical therapist, agreed.
“He hasn’t done anything I haven’t seen any coach of any contact sport do,” she confirmed. “It’s just standard.”
“Schoffstall is doing a lot of good for the program,” Morgan said. “He does not have a background in coaching lacrosse, but he has gone out of his way to learn a lot and has gotten involved in US Lacrosse and coaching clinics. While he majored in history in college, he minored in coaching philosophy.”
Other supportive parents classify Schoffstall as “inspirational,” “disciplined” and one who promotes respect.
“We had a lot of character issues that had to be dealt with for the 2007 season,” Morgan added. “This year is going to be a really good year because we have a lot of talent coming up. We also have a lot of really good parents involved; there a just a few out to get Schoffstall. We’ve been lacking good character and he is really working on that.”
“We’re grateful to Coach Schoffstall for everything he’s done,” Mitchell added.