MARBLEHEAD — Marblehead soccer coach Steve Ingemi is flatly denying a former player's charge that he engaged in hazing during practices.
"Hazing absolutely, positively did not happen," Ingemi told The Salem News in a brief phone message.
Former Marblehead High soccer captain Jacob Rainer has charged that a technique dubbed "branding" was used as a rite of passage for new members of the team. According to a letter prepared by Rainer's father, Robert, who is a lawyer, Ingemi would kick the ball "at great velocity toward the players standing inside the net."
Players were expected to stand their ground unflinching and to leave with the imprint of the ball on their chests, according to the letter. Rainer's letter was meant to serve notice on the town, the schools and Ingemi that he intends to file suit if his complaint is not settled during a mandatory six-month waiting period.
Rainer is seeking monetary damages for what he said was emotional harm to his son resulting from the practice.
"This is frivolous," Ingemi responded, while indicating he was limited in what he could discuss. He offered no further details in the voice mail message and could not be reached later for comment.
Meanwhile, some parents of players and one former player offered strong support for Ingemi.
"I'm very surprised that Jake would do this," said former teammate Alex Terrill, now attending Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. "Personally, I love the coach. He was like a second father to me. I'd go to him with all my problems. He was always a great guy."
The "branding" was meant to prepare players for game situations where they stand in line and block penalty kicks, Terrill said. The coach took care to prepare the boys and prevent injuries, Terrill said. Players were instructed to keep their heads down, eyes on the ball and hands over crotch.