Lake athletic director says goodbye after nearly four decades

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Lake Athletic Director Dave Shaffer, a 1982 Flyer alum, is moving on after nearly four decades, boasting a career that saw him help oversee the building or development of a variety of facilities on the school’s campus, something the district benefits from to this day.
“I have always wanted our facilities to be the best inside and outside for both athletics and academics. With the help of many people and the staff, we have created a beautiful campus for the community to be proud of and enjoy,” he said. “As an alum, I wanted our athletes to have the best and provide an enriching athletic experience for them to use in later life, as my experiences did for me after high school.”
Schaffer founded the Flyers Club, a volunteer-based organization, in 2001 to help with costs and the construction of new facilities.
“We were able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars of improvements to athletic facilities with talented, skilled tradesmen (working) as volunteers. We used funds from many private sources to pay for materials at a reduced cost, due to our relationship with many generous businesses from around the area. We would not have accomplished all the great things at Lake Schools without the help of so many people, and I am very appreciative of their efforts in making our facilities one of the best in the area,” said Shaffer. “The many compliments we receive from visitors about our facilities are because of all the hard-working volunteers we had and the generous donations to make these improvements without using tax dollars. I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish over the years.
“We have hosted many tournaments over the years in our facilities. It takes an incredible amount of planning and organization to make them run successfully,” said Shaffer. “Along with this, it takes many volunteers to operate a tournament, when most times, they are neutral site games (meaning Lake is not playing).
“We have a tremendous staff of volunteers that are willing to give their time at these contests. It is a testament to how great our people truly are. Some of our volunteers have been with us for over 20 years,” he said. “Tournaments were probably the thing I most enjoyed doing. I managed tournaments for the Northwest District Athletic Board (NWDAB) and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) for 33 years. I will definitely miss doing those.”
Shaffer has held a bevy of positions within the district, dating back to 1983 when he was volunteering as an athletic trainer and coach while attending the University of Toledo. He was an athletic trainer for 14 years, an assistant football coach for 15 years, an assistant baseball coach for 14 years, an assistant athletic director for 11 years, head varsity softball coach for two years, OHSAA tournament manager for 33 years and athletic director for 25 years. Shaffer also taught physical education, weight training and special education.
He graduated from UT in 1988 and earned a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University six years later.
Shaffer recalled the time years ago when many school athletic facilities were lacking and in need of improvements.
“Schools, in general, have made vast improvements to their athletic facilities from where they were a decade or more ago. There are more practice/competition venues, larger venues, improved surfaces and additional equipment. I can recall having limited areas to practice, small competition venues, no weight room, poor field conditions and a lack of equipment,” he said. “I remember the days of kids practicing on rock-hard grass fields with no irrigation, coaches pushing a chalker around a cinder track and hoping it didn’t rain before the upcoming track meet, and having only one bench press in a pole barn and kids taking turns to lift.”
The landscape of specialization has also had a major impact on amateur athletics, Shaffer said.
“Some challenges in school-based athletics are seeing a decline in participation numbers, possibly due to travel sports gaining popularity, kids wanting to work instead of participating (in sports) and kids specializing in just one sport,” said Shaffer. “Other challenges are an increase in inappropriate spectator behaviors, a decline in officials and the rising costs to operate athletic programs. There are many more opportunities for kids to play at the next level now than there were years ago.”
For 36 years, from 1960-96, the Flyers were members of the Northern Lakes League, but they were the small fish in a big pond when the 1990s came along.
“Lake joined the Suburban Lakes League in 1997 where it found much more success than in its final decade in the NLL. Lake Schools have had much success since being a member of the Northern Buckeye Conference with schools similar in size,” said Shaffer. “I was fortunate to work with and build so many relationships with other schools’ athletic directors and administrators for almost four decades.
“I’m very proud of all the league championships, sectional and district championships our teams have accomplished over the years. Many of our kids accomplished individual honors through their hard work and commitment to an athletic program and many kids have gone on to play at the next level and lead successful careers after doing so; we are very proud,” he said.
Lake Superintendent Jim Witt talked about his relationship with Shaffer and the demands imposed on an athletic director.
“I have known Dave for close to 30 years, dating back to when he was the assistant athletic director here and I was the athletic director at Otsego,” said Witt. “Above all, there has been stability and consistency in the way things operated, and the expectations of our kids and coaches didn't change. Dave’s organizational and planning skills ensured that our events would run smoothly.
“The job of the athletic director has evolved over the years and has become more difficult. The administrative tasks have increased at the state and local levels and public scrutiny has intensified especially with social media, just to name a few examples,” Witt said.
Shaffer had high praise for his former secretary, Marietta Thomas.
“We were blessed to have such a wonderful, caring and dedicated employee in Marietta Thomas, who served the school district for 35 years, but continued on volunteering after that. She performed many duties over her years with the district as a secretary, transportation supervisor, bus driver, ticket manager and ticket seller,” said Shaffer. “I consider her my second mom, knowing her since I was 7 years old. We worked closely together with football contests and tournaments over the years. She was a tremendous asset to the athletic department. She was known for her hospitality and kindness to anyone she came across. She would do anything for anyone, regardless if it was athletic related or not.
“She and, recently, our transportation supervisor, Trudy Foster, would put on epic tournament hospitality meals for our volunteer staff, officials and media. The dishes were homemade, prepared by them and other community members as well. Between Marietta and Trudy, they created a different menu for each day of the tournament and had great community support to pull off these awesome meals. Trudy has become a great help with major events as well and we appreciate her for everything she does for the athletic department,” he said.
Recalling the tornado that devastated the area 13 years ago, causing damage to the high school and taking the lives of seven people, Shaffer said, “First and foremost, the deaths that were the result of the tornado and the loss of our school and people’s homes were a tragedy that will never be forgotten.
“We faced many challenges with the destruction of our athletic facilities,” he said. “We had to get creative to find places for our teams to practice and compete, replacing lost equipment and rebuilding facilities to minimize lost time. It was a tremendous team effort to have the stadium ready on schedule for contests only two months after the tornado. There are so many people and businesses to thank for their efforts to accomplish that.
“We decided to name the stadium Lake Community Stadium as a tribute to the community coming together to rebuild. Other venues took longer and we held basketball practices in one of TPS’ elementary schools, varsity volleyball and wrestling contests in the smaller middle school gym and basketball contests at Owens Community College. We were very thankful for everything Owens CC did for us and other agencies,” he said.
Shaffer said he plans to focus more of his time and energy on his family. He and his wife, Lisa, have three children, Alyssa, Ryan, and Megan, all of whom graduated from Lake High School. They also have two grandchildren.


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