Nearly 40 years, but it never felt like work to Shaffer; Lake AD steps down

MILLBURY — If Lake High School’s athletic department was Mayberry RFD or Petticoat Junction, Dave Shaffer would be the guy wearing the post office hat, the justice of the peace hat, the sheriff’s hat, the grocer’s hat, and so forth.

If there is a job within the athletic department, over his 39 years, the 1982 Lake graduate has done it at one time or another, dating back to volunteering as an athletic trainer and coach in 1983 while studying at the University of Toledo.

Shaffer retired from his athletic director position at the end of June.

“I enjoyed the countless relationships with the coaches, athletes, staff members and the many volunteers who have made the Lake Local School District a great place to spend a big part of my life at,” Shaffer said.

“To quote a saying – “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m thankful for having these tremendous people to work with and most importantly a very supportive family that allowed me to do what I’ve loved doing for so many years,” Shaffer continued.

“I look forward to spending the evenings and weekends with my family and watching my grandchildren grow. I missed a lot of opportunities with my own three kids growing up, so I want to be there for my grandchildren.”

Of course, getting his bachelor’s degree in education and athletic training at UT in 1988 then his masters in education from Bowling Green State University in 1994 helped him get started.

At Lake, he was athletic trainer 14 years, assistant varsity football coach 15 years, assistant baseball coach 14 years, assistant athletic director 11 years and head varsity softball coach two years.

Just as important to Shaffer, he has been director of athletics for 25 years and an OHSAA tournament manager for 33 years.

Oh, and did we mention, he taught physical education, weight training and Special Education? Plus, the last 17 years, Shaffer served in combined roles as athletic director and buildings and grounds maintenance director. He plans on staying on as grounds maintenance director for a few more years.

Flyer Club gets its start

It is obvious that Shaffer cares about Lake’s athletic facilities. When he took the job, Lake basketball was playing home games on a stage, but as he leaves Lake has one of the best basketball facilities in Northwest Ohio, typically hosting district and regional tournament games.

“I have always wanted our facilities to be the best inside and outside for both athletics and academics,” Shaffer said.

“With the help of many people and the staff we have created a beautiful campus for the community to be proud of and enjoy. 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.”

Lake needed a device to help get those facilities to where they are today, and that includes Lake Community Stadium for football, a soccer field, and right on down the line to the baseball, softball, and track (Gene Ward Track) facilities.

That is where the Flyer Club came in — a volunteer-based organization Shaffer helped found in 2001.

“We were able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars of improvements to athletic facilities with talented skilled tradesmen as volunteers,” Shaffer said. “Using funds from many private sources to pay for materials at a reduced cost due to our relationship with many generous businesses 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.

“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,” Shaffer continued, adding that there were always projects that never got finished, but he believes someday they will be.

“Very proud of what we were able to accomplish over the years. We would have next built press boxes at baseball and softball, along with a brick backstop at softball,” Shaffer said.

Three decades-plus hosting tournaments

As a result, Northwest Ohio prep sports fans have gotten used to traveling to Millbury for some of the area’s highest profile tournament games. For 33 years, Lake has been a host site, and Shaffer says he is going to miss it.

A lot of work goes into preparation, and a lot of volunteers in making sure it runs correctly, but it brings revenue to the school and athletic department.

So, when Lake puts in its bid to the Northwest District board or the OHSAA, the decision was a no-brainer for the state’s tournament committees.

“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,” Shaffer said.

“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 even when Lake is not playing.

“It is a testament to how great our people truly are. Some of our volunteers have been with us for over 20 years. Tournaments were probably the most favorite thing I enjoyed doing.

“We have been blessed to have great support at our athletic events and the level of volunteerism is fantastic. To see so many community people at our events is a tribute to how they support our athletes win or lose. People don’t hesitate to volunteer when you pick up the phone or send an email asking for help at our events.

“The successful operation of athletic contests relies heavily on many volunteers to perform many various duties. We couldn’t do what we do without these great people, and they are so much appreciated.”

More than a secretary

If there is one individual who has a special place in Shaffer’s heart, it is longtime athletic secretary Marietta Thomas, who served the district for 35 years before retiring.

“We were blessed to have such a wonderful, caring and dedicated employee, but she continued on volunteering after that (retirement),” Shaffer said.

“She performed many duties over her years with the district as a secretary, transportation supervisor, bus driver, ticket manager. and ticket seller. 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 of if it was athletic related or not.

“She and most 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 themselves 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 Foster has become a great help with major events as well and we appreciate her for everything she does for the athletic department.”