PAYSON, Utah (ABC 4 News) – It’s being called a foul play on the football field. A volunteer coach is caught on camera apparently taking an opposing player. Now friends of the football dad are speaking out.
Chris Studdert coach’s Mapleton’s other 7th grade football team, but has spent many hours on the sidelines with volunteer coach Nate Harris. While he wasn’t at Saturday’s game between Payson and Mapleton’s second 7th grade football team, he’s seen the video and says he can’t believe Harris did what he’s charged with doing.
“I just thought goodness. This is really out of character,” said Studdert. “He’s a guy that sits on the sidelines. He’s quiet. Anybody that sees him at a game he’s just, this is what he’s doing. (gestures arms folded at chest) He’s not yelling. He’s not screaming.”
The Payson team says Harris stepped into the field and intentionally hit the 13-year-old player with his forearm.
Payson’s head coach Chad Bahr said, “He goes to turn the corner, he’s got one man to beat on the field when he just gets stopped, like BOOM.”
“Their coach had stepped out onto the field, one yard, and forearm shivered my halfback as he’s turning the corner and just dropped him,” explained Bahr. “My assistant coach says ‘Is that the freaking coach?’”
Studdert says, looking at the video, it appears the player is running out of bounds. “You have a guy who has a player running at him who puts his arms up. Maybe he did it harder than he intended to, I don’t know I can’t really speak for him, but that’s all you can see, a guy puts his arms up in defense,” said Studdert.
One referee ABC 4 spoke with said the player was running out of bounds. David Durrant said it appeared Harris intended to hurt the child. The Payson team and police wonder why Harris didn’t try to soften the blow or help the child up afterwards.
Sergeant Lance Smith said,” There’s no concern for the wellbeing of the child. He doesn’t walk over to see if he’s alright. He doesn’t show concern or anything he just backs away from him and stands there.”
Studdert agrees maybe Harris could have moved out of the way or bear hugged the player to soften the blow, but he can’t believe he’s been charged with second degree felony child abuse for what happened.
“I just think to have a second degree felony over volunteering; you there standing on the sideline and putting your arms up…Wow. That’s a lot,” said Studdert. “My wife and I had the discussion should I continue to coach? Am I risking the welfare of my family?”