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.
Kent City cross country coach Jill Evers has been named the 2021-22 National Coach of the Year for girls cross country by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.
Evers was selected by a committee including representatives from all eight NFHS sections – Michigan is part of Section 4 with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The following brief bio includes an excerpt from Evers’ coaching philosophy, which nominees were asked to submit after being identified as candidates for the awards.
Jill Evers joined the Kent City athletic staff as an assistant cross country coach in 1991 after previously coaching a season each at Allegan High School and Allegan Middle School. She took over Kent City’s girls and boys varsity cross country programs in 1993 and also has served as head girls track & field coach since 1993. She led Kent City’s girls cross country team to a Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final runner-up finish in 2021, the program’s second runner-up finish under her leadership, and she’s also guided Kent City’s girls program to 15 league and seven Regional titles and nine total top-eight Finals finishes. She previously was named an NFHS Section Coach of the Year for girls track & field in 2006 after leading Kent City’s girls track & field team to its first MHSAA Finals championship in that sport, and inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012. Evers also is a longtime science teacher at Kent City and advisor and mentor for a variety of school activities in addition to coaching.
“I know people say, ‘Athletics is an extension of the classroom,’ but I believe it's so much more than that. While participating in sports, young people can learn about themselves and others, challenge themselves and grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Athletics is where we learn life lessons, such as how to lose with grace, cheer for teammates and even opponents, win with humility, deal with adversity, empathize with others, respect all those involved, be grateful for healthy bodies and opportunities to compete and push ourselves beyond what was originally thought possible. Success is different for each person, but I believe cross country lends itself to individual success. Everyone can improve and learn lifelong healthy habits. Everyone can set and achieve goals. Those who aren't as fast often earn the respect of the more gifted runners because of their perseverance. It is my job as a coach to encourage, motivate, and challenge all students who want to participate, and then congratulate them for a job well done.”
Three more Michigan coaches earned honors in Section 4. Mark Posey was honored in boys golf after leading Big Rapids to a 10th-place finish in Lower Peninsula Division 3 in 2022 after four straight Finals runner-up finishes. (There was no LP boys golf season in 2020 due to COVID-19.) Lake Orion boys lacrosse coach Ronald Hebert was honored after guiding his team to the Division 1 Quarterfinals last spring after taking the Dragons to the Semifinals in 2021. Scott Werner was honored in girls track & field after leading Pewamo-Westphalia to a runner-up finish at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. P-W shared the LPD3 Finals championship in 2021 and has won titles four of the last nine seasons (not counting 2020).
The NFHS has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982.