Two assistant coaches for the Lake Region third- and fourth-grade football team have been removed pending an investigation into their behavior with players during a practice last weekend.

Naples Recreation and Community Activities Director Brian Crockett said Thursday the two coaches have been suspended from their volunteer positions and will not be back with the team unless the investigation clears them of wrongdoing.

Jeffrey Staples, whose son is on the team, said he watched the practice last Saturday, and alleges that the two coaches picked up three players “2 to 3 feet off the ground” and drove them “into the ground, hitting his head first, and applying all of his body weight.”

“I was furious to what I was seeing happen. … You just knew it wasn’t right when you saw it,” Staples said.

Crockett said the investigation started Monday night, after volunteer head coach Simon Graham informed him of the assistant coaches’ alleged behavior at the practice. Crockett, who declined to identify the two assistant coaches, said he is unsure how long the investigation will take to complete.

“Neither coach will be coaching with the team unless we were to find out that the accusations were untrue,” Crockett said.


Graham, whose son was one of the three players involved in the alleged incidents Saturday, said the two coaches have had a pattern of behaving too harshly with the players.

The Press Herald attempted to speak with the two assistant coaches believed to have suspended. One replied “not making any comments at this time” several times when asked about being removed from the team; the other could not be reached by phone.

Graham is also gone from the team. Crockett said he dismissed him as the team’s head coach earlier this week.

“(It was) a personnel issue, but it was not related to (the allegations against the assistant coaches). Simon Graham is not being accused of anything detrimental to the players at all,” Crockett said. “It is not connected in any way to the other two coaches.”

Graham, however, said he was fired as a result of bringing up the coaches’ alleged behavior.

Graham said he and one of the assistant coaches got into an argument before a game Sunday, and that Crockett became involved in the spat. At a meeting Monday to discuss the argument, Graham said Crockett and the assistants were argumentative and confrontational with the head coach.


“I got to the point where I said to Brian, ‘You either choose them or choose me. But if you choose them, I’m going to sue because I’m scared for the welfare of the kids,’ ” said Graham. “He fired me for abusing the assistant coaches.”

Asked if he took the assistant coaches’ side over Graham, Crockett said that was “categorically not true.”

Staples, the parent who watched Saturday’s practice, said he has noticed a pattern of inappropriate behavior from the assistants.

“The yelling is constant, non-stop through every practice. … (One coach) had no problem going right up and grabbing them by the facemask, spinning them out, pulling them right up,” he said. “You could tweak the kid’s neck. … It’s been straight-up abuse.”

Staples said he and other parents were outraged by Graham’s firing.

“I was a little agitated about why it was handled the way it was,” Staples said. “This is a coach that … is teaching the kids the right way, the proper technique, he’s not hurting them, he’s doing really good by the kids.

“I don’t think that any of it was handled at all right.”

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