By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor
It was 2008 when Jody Redman and staff at the Minnesota State High School League developed an emergency action plan to provide guidance and procedure in the event of sudden cardiac arrest during scholastic athletic competition.
The desired response from schools upon receipt of the plan was, well, less than enthusiastic.
“Only about 40 percent of our schools used the information and implemented the program,” said Redman, associate director for the MSHSL. “Our focus was completely on sudden cardiac arrest, that being the worst-case scenario regarding athletic-related health issues.”
The MSHSL asked the University of Minnesota to survey its member schools, and results showed that the majority of schools not on board simply felt a sudden cardiac arrest “would never happen at their school.” Naive or not on the schools’ parts, that was the reality – so Redman went back to revise the playbook.
“We expanded the plan to deal with all emergencies, rather than specific incidents,” Redman said. “Now it’s evolved so that we are prepared to deal with a variety of situations which put participants at risk. We shifted gears and got more schools to participate.”
Did they ever. And not just in Minnesota.
This summer, the “Anyone Can Save a Life” program, authored by the MSHSL and the Medtronic Foundation, is being disseminated to high schools nationwide with the financial support of the NFHS Foundation. The program will reach schools in time for the 2015-16 school year.
Once received, schools will find that there are two options for implementation, via in-person training or online.
“The in-person method is facilitated by the athletic administrator with the assistance of a training DVD” Redman said. “The important element is the follow through, ensuring coaches return their completed Emergency Action Plan (EAP). With the e-learning module on anyonecansavealife.org, individuals will complete an e-learning module that will walk them through the details of their specific plan, and as they answer questions, the information will automatically generate a PDF of the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) which they can edit at a later date as information changes.”
Schools will find five major components of the program to be received this summer: the first is an implementation checklist for the AD, explaining their role. Next are sections for in-person training, online training and event staff training. The last item contains a variety of resources that will ensure the successful implementation of a comprehensive emergency response to all emergencies.
Generally speaking, the program prompts schools to assemble preparedness teams, broken into four categories: a 911 team, a CPR team, an AED team and a HEAT STROKE team. The groups are made up of coaches and their students who will be in close proximity to all after-school activities.
“The reality about school sports is, at 3:30 every day the office closes and any type of medical support ceases to exist,” Redman said. “We then send thousands of students out to gyms, courts, fields and rinks to participate without systemic support for emergencies. This program puts into place that systemic support.”
Another stark reality is that the majority of schools in any state do not have full-time athletic trainers. Even for those fortunate enough to employ such personnel, it’s most likely the training “staff” consists of one person. That one body can only be in one place at one time, and on widespread school campuses the time it takes to get from one venue to another could be the difference between life and death.
“Athletic trainers can champion the program, but someone needs to oversee that every coach has a completed EAP in place,” Redman said. “For every minute that goes by when a cardiac arrest occurs, chance for survival decreases by 10 percent.”
Thus, it’s imperative to train and grant responsibility to as many people as possible, including student-athletes. In fact, students are a vital component to having a successful EAP. Students will be put in position to call 911, to meet the ambulance at a pre-determined access point, to locate the nearest AED, to make sure emersion tubs are filled for hot-weather practices, and for those who are trained, to assist with CPR. Coaches will identify students at the beginning of the season and prior to an emergency taking place. They will provide them with the details of the job they are assigned so they will be ready to assist in the event of an emergency.
“We have game plans for every sport, and for every opponent on our schedule,” Redman said. “But we don’t have a plan to save the life of a member of our team or someone attending a game at our school.
“This is about developing a quick and coordinated response to every emergency so we give someone in trouble a chance at survival, and then practicing it once or twice a season. We have ‘drop the dummy’ drills where we drop a dummy and evaluate how it went, and how everyone performed. In one scenario, it’s the coach that goes down, and then you have a group of 15- or 16-year-olds standing there. That’s why students have to take ownership of this, too.”
The key to an effective emergency action plan is to utilize and empower students in every sport and at every level to be a part of the response team. Following are brief descriptions of the teams.
The 911 Team
- Two students will call 911 from a pre-determined phone and provide the dispatcher with the location and details of the emergency.
- Two students will meet the ambulance at a pre-determined access point and take them to the victim.
- Two students will call the athletic trainer, if one is available, and the athletic administrator and alert them to the emergency.
The CPR Team
- The coach is the lead responder on this team and is responsible for attending to the victim and administering CPR, if necessary, until trained medical personnel arrive.
- One person is capable of providing effective CPR for approximately two minutes before the quality begins to diminish. Having several students trained and ready to administer CPR will save lives.
The AED Team
- Two students will retrieve the AED and take it to the victim.
- Two students will physically locate the athletic trainer, if one is available, and take him or her to the victim.
The Heat Stroke Team
- Two students identify locations of emersion tub, water source, ice source and ice towels.
- Two students prepare tub daily for practices and events.
Denny White brought quite a bit to the Marysville and St. Clair communities.
In 1961, as a junior in high school, White was part of the first team to bring a football state title to Marysville.
Fifty years later, as an assistant coach, he played a vital role in bringing St. Clair its first MHSAA Finals title in baseball.
During the years in between, and decade after, White brought his knowledge of and passion for those sports to hundreds of student athletes.
But most recently, he brought the two communities together.
This past Friday night, the rival schools played for the Denny White Trophy, an award created to honor the late coach and connect the two communities where he was most revered.
“I’m so happy with all the support that has been around the project,” said Brady Beedon, a family friend who helped to create the trophy and was in the booth calling Friday night’s game for Get Stuck On Sports. “It’s the least we could’ve done for a man who helped so many athletes. His legacy deserves to be preserved.”
In a fitting tribute to White, who died Jan. 22 of this year following a long battle with cancer, the two teams played a hard-fought game at East China Stadium, with White’s alma mater Marysville coming away with a 25-20 victory.
Both teams featured players who had been coached by White at some point in one or both of the sports, as his time on the bench lasted through the fall of 2022.
That season, he coached the JV B football team at Marysville. Most recently before that, he had been the varsity baseball coach at St. Clair from 2015-21.
“Not much can unify rivals, but Coach White’s influence goes beyond that rivalry,” Marysville football coach Derrick Meier said at a press conference unveiling the trophy. “He’s affected thousands of local athletes. … It is awesome that someone had such an influence across the board with all local athletes (in multiple) sports. I contacted him my first year coaching varsity, and he was not willing to leave where he was at. I called him three subsequent years; he graciously declined. The last year he did accept, we added a JV B team, his wisdom and knowledge went well beyond just coaching on the field. We’re all lucky for his influence.
“Heroes get remembered. Coach White will be remembered.”
White was a 1963 graduate of Marysville, who then attended Ferris State and Central Michigan. His coaching journey did not begin in the area where he grew up, however, as he coached baseball and football at Newaygo High School before coming to St. Clair.
He spent 35 years in the Saints athletic program, coaching baseball and multiple levels of football.
Much of his time was spent as the pitching coach for St. Clair for coaches Richie Mallewitz and Bill McElreath. That included the 2011 season, when his pitching staff included current major leaguer Jacob Cronenworth, who now plays second base for the San Diego Padres.
Also on that staff were Joel Seddon, who was drafted twice – once out of high school and again after college – and would go on to be the closer at South Carolina; and Jared Tobey, who pitched at Wayne State and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, playing four years in their minor league system.
While White coached nearly 1,000 baseball games in his career, he was involved with more than just high school sports. He also coached a 13-year-old Little League team to a state title and the semifinals of the Great Lakes Regional in 2015.
No matter the level, White poured all he had into coaching, and that included his final season on the sidelines at Marysville, just months prior to his passing.
“Every single kid that he touched with that team, you could just tell, gravitated toward him immediately,” said Travis Disser, who coached with White that final year at Marysville. “His lessons and his light-hearted humor are just something that you can’t replace, or ever hope to. I was lucky enough to learn pitching from Coach White when I was a younger kid, as well. He was the exact same Denny White as he was all those years ago, as he was last year during his battle with cancer. Coach White was a warrior in every sense of the term. His lessons, both on the field and off the field from him, are something that I’ll never, ever forget.”
The idea to create the trophy honoring White came about not long after his death, as Beedon worked with Meier, former St. Clair athletic director Denny Borse and St. Clair assistant football coach T.J. Schindler to create and design the trophy.
The final product is a two-tiered trophy topped with a pair White’s hats – one from St. Clair, the other from Marysville – that have been bronzed. It includes the years in which he won his state titles at his respective schools, and a passage about his life. There is also room to list the yearly winners, as it is planned to represent the rivalry and shared respect for White in the two communities for years to come.
“Whether it was Little League kids over the last 20 years, or some of the football players and baseball players that he coached over the decades that he coached, all of them when they get together have great stories and fondness for all the memories that (White and his fellow coaches) helped them create,” said Sandy Rutledge, the current St. Clair athletic director and a longtime friend and colleague of White. “I think it’s awesome that now as we play for this trophy every year, it will give our coaches a chance to kind of explain who Coach was. The next generation, maybe they didn’t even know him, will know that he is a legend, and he’ll always be remembered.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) From left: St. Clair’s Larry Wawryzniak, Liam Nesbitt and Peyton Ellis, Denny White’s wife Karen White, and Marysville’s Bryce Smith, Carter Saccucci and Caz Carty stand with the first-year traveling trophy celebrating Denny White’s coaching career. (Middle) White was a mainstay in the area’s sports community for more than six decades. (Below) The trophy celebrates his contributions to both schools and will list the winners of their annual football game. (Trophy photos courtesy of Brady Beedon. Headshot courtesy of the White family.)