Two Coaches Reassigned After Teen Football Player Killed by 400-Pound Log

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
August 21, 2017US News
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Two Coaches Reassigned After Teen Football Player Killed by 400-Pound Log
Suffolk County police work on the athletic field at Sachem High School East in Farmingville, N.Y., where a teenage football player was fatally injured during a drill earlier in morning, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. (James Carbone/Newsday via AP)

A suburban New York school district will reassign two football coaches in connection to the death of a 16-year-old football player during a pre-season practice on Aug. 10.

The Sachem School District superintendent said that the Sachem East High School football coach and a member of the coaching staff will be reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.

Joshua Mileto died after a 400-pound wooden log that he and four other players were carrying struck him on the head, police say. The 5-foot-6, 134-pound wide receiver was taken to a hospital and later declared dead.

Mileto, a junior at the high school, was training in a six-week pre-season camp on eastern Long Island and had raised questions about the use of military-style drills for training young athletes.

Mark Wajciechowski, the head coach, has not commented on the event.

According to Kenneth Graham, the school district superintendent, Anthony Gambino will work as the interim head coach in Wajciechowski’s absence.

A sign points to Sachem East High School in Farmingville, New York where police say log fell on a teenage football player's head, killing him, Thursday Aug. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)
A sign points to Sachem East High School in Farmingville, New York where police say log fell on a teenage football player’s head, killing him, Thursday Aug. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

Sachem East High School said their team will go on with the football season.

Mileto’s death has so far been deemed accidental, police say.

A graduate of the Sachem East high school, Carlin Schledorn, told AP that carrying the 12-foot log was a team building exercise.

“It’s very big. It’s like a tree, and it’s a challenge for people who weightlift,” he said. “Five or six people do it at once. I feel horrific for the team and coaches because I know them, and they are all great men.”

A classmate of Mileto’s, Olivia Cassereli, said that he “cared about everyone else.”

“He put others before himself, and everyone loved him and was friends with him,” said Cassereli, who called him her best friend.

Joshua Mileto (GoFundMe)
Joshua Mileto (GoFundMe)

Some colleges and other high schools around the country have incorporated log-carrying drills and other military-inspired exercises into their football preparations in recent years, sometimes bringing in SEALs to teach and motivate.

Players at Indiana’s New Albany High School teamed up last month to tote 6-foot-long, 200-pound logs 2 miles from a local amphitheater to the school.

SEALs and Green Berets trained the players first on how to lift the logs and carry them on their shoulders, coach Steve Cooley said. Accompanied by coaches and a police escort, the groups paused for water and put the logs down every one or two blocks, and each six-person squad had an extra man who could sub in if someone got tired.

“The purpose was not to try to see how tough they are … the purpose was to accomplish a goal,” Cooley said. “It was very rewarding for all of us.”
But after Mileto’s death on Thursday, sports safety expert Douglas Casa questioned the wisdom of having teenagers perform an exercise that involves carrying a heavy object and that was developed for Navy SEALs, “potentially a very different clientele.”

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) students participate in Log PT (physical training) during Hell Week June 22, 2003 in Coronado, California. Log PT is a demonstration not only of physical strength and endurance, but the importance of teamwork. The intense physical and mental conditioning it takes to become a SEAL begins at BUD/S training. (Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) students participate in Log PT (physical training) during Hell Week June 22, 2003 in Coronado, California. Log PT is a demonstration not only of physical strength and endurance, but the importance of teamwork. The intense physical and mental conditioning it takes to become a SEAL begins at BUD/S training. (Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

“There’s so much potential for things to go wrong that I would really want people to think twice before doing something like that,” said Casa, executive director of the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, which works to improve safety for athletes.

Football, at all levels, has become more safety-conscious in recent years amid scrutiny of head injuries in the sport. In college football, for instance, the NCAA this year barred the two-a-day contact practices that coaches once used to toughen up their teams in the preseason, though many teams had ended them already.

For high schools in Suffolk County, offseason practices are permitted as long as they are not mandated and are open to everyone, said Tom Combs, executive director of the athletic organization that oversees high school sports in the county.

“What exercises that are conducted are the privy of the school district and individuals running the workouts,” he said.

In an unrelated incident, another player fell and hit his head Wednesday at the school during training, police said. His injuries were not life-threatening.

Sachem Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Graham extended condolences to Mileto’s family and friends and said support services will be offered “for as long as needed.”

The team’s training officially starts Monday, and the football season starts in September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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