Next Play: Heart of the Matter

June 25, 2015

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

From the retirement of NFL players in their mid-20s fearing long-term disability, to NASCAR drivers suffering injuries against concrete walls when alternative substances are available, to MLB outfielders running into barriers which place aesthetics and tradition over safety, the focus of highlight shows, apps and old-fashioned sports pages is shifting from action inside the lines to the sidelines.

As the reality of human vulnerability continues to invade our favorite escape from reality – athletics – protecting those in the spotlight needs to be Job 1.

While the quest for risk management protocols and health and safety provisions is a never-ending loop, the MHSAA bolted from the starting blocks with a 4H plan (Health Histories, Heads, Heat and Hearts) in the fall of 2009, a mission that enters the fourth turn for the 2015-16 school year.

And, as pulse quickens for the “Heart” stage in the fall, the MHSAA will continue to step up initiatives involving the other three initiatives during the next lap.Think of it as a continuous relay, where the baton is never dropped and fresh runners continue the race.

While organizations at other levels might be asking, “What to do,” the MHSAA is focusing on “What’s next?” 

In this playbook the next plays are critical in allowing student-athletes to continue providing their communities with inexpensive and entertaining breaks from reality.

The Heart of the Matter

The 2015-16 school year brings with it an ambitious but paramount stage in the MHSAA’s mission to protect and promote the well being of student-athletes across the state.

Beginning in the fall, all high school varsity coaches will need to have Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification by established deadlines which correspond to rules meetings.

The requirement is new, and the volume of personnel affected is vast. Yet, plans have been in place during the past few years, and schools in many communities are ahead of the curve.

“We’ve fielded some questions regarding the requirement, but I think that many of our schools  already have similar protocols in place,” said MHSAA assistant director Kathy Vruggink Westdorp. “Increasingly, schools have become more prudent with regards to health and safety, and programs which emphasize these initiatives have been well received.”

Pete Ryan, MHSAA Representative Council member and athletic director for Saginaw Township Community Schools, concurs.

“The CPR requirement will not be a change for Heritage, as we have required CPR for eight years,” Ryan said. “We offer certification through our district nurse at no charge to the coaches and train about 20-30 coaches per year.”

The training vehicle might vary from district to district, but so long as the end result is certification, the coaches are free to take course by any means possible, whether online or in person.

“I think we’ll see a blend of online and classroom delivery,” Westdorp said. “And, I don’t think it will be just the coaches. At the MIAAA Conference (in March), school leaders were proactive in terms of certification for athletic directors, too.”

Mike Bakker, President of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and athletic director at Fenton High School, says CPR certification is a must in the risk management plans for all school settings.

“As an educator who has been a CPR and first aid instructor for the American Heart Association for a number of years, I am excited that the MHSAA will require CPR training for varsity coaches,” Bakker said. 

“I certainly hope that in the future we will see that all coaches are trained in CPR. There might be a bit of a challenge at first to get our coaches trained, as schools look for the most economical as well as timely way to accomplish this mandate. The biggest hurdle that I can foresee is trying to find qualified trainers in all areas of the state that have multiple training dates available to fit the needs of such diverse coaching staffs.”  

Ryan believes there is no substitute for the personal touch.

“We are doing in-person training which I feel is better because the individuals have to perform the procedure on the practice dummy," he said. "It’s simply more hands-on training.”

School nurses and trainers will play a substantial role in the certification process, as will community health organizations in many locales.

“In many of our schools, the health educators are certified to conduct CPR courses,” Westdorp said. “We’ve also had numerous calls from non-school entities alerting us to their availability to provide training, such as fire departments and local medical centers.”

Fenton is one such school with the luxury of on-site personnel to train its staff.

“We are fortunate in Fenton that our athletic trainer and athletic director are certified trainers so we can accomplish our training in-house, but I know that not all schools are as fortunate,” Bakker said.

Which is exactly why it’s necessary for coaches to become certified, and ideally not just the head coaches.

“It should be encouraged that all coaching staff become CPR certified so that they are able to take action, especially for schools which do not have an athletic trainer on staff and if the head coach is unavailable or present, in the unfortunate event that a potential cardiac emergency and/or sudden-death incident occurs,” said certified athletic trainer Gretchen Mohney, the Clinical Coordinator and Instructor for Western Michigan University Undergraduate Athletic Training Program.

Mark Mattson, athletic director at Traverse City Central, indicated that while not previously a requirement, the district has been proactive in prepping the coaches.

“From the moment the requirement was announced, we've been out in front of it,” Mattson said. “What’s great is, even though it hasn’t been a requirement for Traverse City Area Public Schools, many coaches are indeed already certified. The district also offers training sessions once a month and those dates are passed on to our coaches. Jason Carmien (AD at Traverse City West) and I have also had conversations about providing training at our preseason coaches meeting for those still in need prior to the start of the fall season.”

Coaches can also count on a familiar training source to come through for certification: the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program. Westdorp, who heads up the expansive continuing education program for the state’s coaches, envisions coursework at select sites which will build CPR training into the session, giving attendees more added incentive and training opportunities.

CAP has also served as a siren to inform and remind the MHSAA’s constituents about the upcoming regulation.

“In all CAP courses this school year, we’ve been educating the coaches about the CPR requirement,” Westdorp said. “We also can format the courses to include a two-hour block for CPR certification within the CAP training. We could even do it with a league and conference group where we set up rotations, and the CPR aspect would be one of the rotations.”

Westdorp added that many athletic directors currently schedule coaches meetings and additional coursework around CAP training. It’s a perfect fit to deliver pertinent messages while all parties are in one location.

Such gatherings could also provide the opportunity for athletic leaders to share emergency action plans.

Along with the CPR component of the MHSAA’s health mission for the coming school year, schools will be asked to have in place and rehearse emergency action plans involving cardiac and other health-related emergencies.

To assist, schools will receive this summer the “Anyone Can Save a Life” program developed by the Minnesota State High School League and endorsed and delivered nationally by the National Federation of State High School Associations (check back for more on this program later this week).

“The ‘Anyone Can Save A Life’ initiative promotes the need to have and to practice planning for different kinds of emergencies; it involves students as well as adults; and it invites schools to include their previously existing  plans,” said MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts.

“The result can be a fresh, comprehensive emphasis on preparing for emergencies well before they occur and then responding with more confidence when those emergencies inevitably happen. It is the perfect link between the last two years when we focused on heat illness and the next two years when we focus on sudden cardiac arrest,” Roberts added.

It will also be of primary concern to place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in all schools and provide training for use of the devices.

The reasoning behind such a full-court press can be backed by simple facts. 

  • At any one time, an estimated 20 percent of the U.S. population congregates on school grounds, increasing the likelihood of school-based cardiac emergencies.
  • Victims of SCA can be brought back to life by providing chest compressions and early defibrillation with an AED.
  • Every second counts. When SCA occurs, chest compressions and the use of an AED need to start immediately.
  • The AED can only help and will only deliver a shock if it is needed.
  • The AED is very easy to use. Just turn it on and follow the voice prompts.

The best way to combat such situations is to create an atmosphere of preparedness; making sure all people in close proximity to potential victims can respond with quickness, confidence and precision to help reduce fatalities.

“In order for best practices to be achieved, it will require coordinated efforts to establish a quality emergency action plan among the entire athletic department staff, which should be practiced annually. This should be viewed as the first line of preparedness and defense in sports safety,” said James Lioy, an adjunct professor in athletic training at WMU who was named Michigan High School Athletic Trainer of the year in 2000-01.

That’s the goal of action plans such as those included in MHSAA CAP Levels and the Anyone Can Save A Life program.

“We've taken the ‘know-how’ out of it. You don't have to know how to perform the medical procedures to be trained and prepared as part of an effective emergency response team,” said Jody Redman, associate director of the Minnesota State High School League and one of the authors of the Anyone Can Save a Life program.

A common refrain in athletics to assign perspective on sport in society is, “It’s just a game; it’s not life or death.”

However, in the most dire of circumstances, participants indeed can be faced with life or death. Knowing how to respond can make all the difference.

2023 Forsythe Award Celebrates Leinaar's 40 Years Dedicated to School Sports

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 8, 2023

Few people in Michigan have had a longer-lasting influence on the rules and policies of educational athletics than Frankfort’s Karen Leinaar, who has served in several roles locally, statewide and nationally over more than 40 years contributing to the school sports community.

Thank you, Bill Baker.

The longtime teacher, coach, principal and superintendent during a career that stretched across multiple schools – including Leinaar’s growing up, Delton Kellogg – made an impression on the standout multi-sport athlete before she graduated from high school in 1977. Baker’s philosophy and work led Leinaar to study education at Michigan State University and then brought her back as Delton’s athletic director to begin four decades of making the same impact on children in her hometown and eventually in hometowns all over Michigan and beyond.

Baker died in 2009, but not before continuing to mentor Leinaar through many good times and tough ones.

“The man had two daughters that I grew up with, his wife was a teacher, and he demonstrated to all of us – he never missed an event – that we were important to him. That even though we weren’t his kids, we were his kids and athletics was a way to help kids become better people – and for some kids it was the only thing that they had positive in their life,” Leinaar said. “And he made it known just to that individual kid how important their participation was and their involvement, and how that helped them become the person that they were.

“That to me was such an example of how to help people be good people, that I just took that role on.”

It’s a role in which she continues to serve. Leinaar began her career as an athletic administrator in 1982, and as the interim athletic director currently at Frankfort High School is serving her fifth district in that position. Since June 2019, she also has served as executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional organization for school sports administrators in the state with a membership of nearly 700.

Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998. To recognize that longtime and continuing impact, Leinaar has been named the 2023 honoree for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.

The annual award is in its 46th year and named after former MHSAA Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe, the Association's first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council, based on an individual's outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.

Leinaar also served 22 years on the MHSAA’s Representative Council and a four-year term from 2009-13 on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and just last week was named to the 2023 class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.

“It is impossible even to estimate the number of students, coaches, administrators and others who have been affected by the work Karen Leinaar has done to make school sports the best they can be – not only in her communities, but across Michigan and throughout the country,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are few who have equaled her dedication and her support and promotion of the ideals of school-based sports. She has always placed an emphasis on being in the room, on the field or at the arena, actively participating in her leadership roles, and our programs are better for it.”

Leinaar first served as athletic director at Delton Kellogg for nearly 17 years, from March 1982 through October 1998. She spent three years at Gaylord, then 8½ at Benzie Central before taking over at Bear Lake in November 2010 and spending the next decade organizing athletic programs for students in grades 5-12 before retiring in January 2021. She came out of retirement to return to the athletic director’s chair this past fall as interim AD at Frankfort. She has completed nearly four years as MIAAA executive director, moving into that position after previously serving nine years as an assistant to the executive.

Leinaar began her service on the Representative Council in Fall 1999 and completed her last term as a statewide at-large representative at the Fall 2021 meeting.

She has been honored several times for her contributions. She received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a Citation from the NFHS in 2000, and she was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She received an MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 – recognition given for work done generally behind the scenes and with little attention.

“This is the top of the mountain, per se. This one does mean so much,” Leinaar said of the Forsythe Award. “The names that are associated with this over the years, I never thought I’d be put in that group.”

Leinaar remains a continuous source of support at a multitude of MHSAA championship events, and during her time on Council was one of the most frequent representatives handing out trophies and medals to champions and runners-up at Finals events. She began while athletic director at Delton Kellogg hosting the MHSAA Volleyball Finals in Class B and Class C and continues to assist with those championships now played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

She also hosted Competitive Cheer Finals at Delton Kellogg in 1996 and 1997, Ski Finals while at Gaylord, and many more championship events across the Lower Peninsula. She continues to assist at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Cross Country and Track & Field Finals.

After attending Delton Kellogg High School, Leinaar earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and recreation, with a minor in driver education, from MSU in 1982. She completed a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994.

Leinaar has been a member for 40 years of both the MIAAA and NIAAA, and has served as chairperson of the MIAAA Annual Conference and awards chairperson for both the state and national bodies. She’s also served as chairperson of the MIAAA’s Exemplary Athletic Program.

Past recipients of the Charles E. Forsythe Award 

1978 - Brick Fowler, Port Huron; Paul Smarks, Warren 
1979 - Earl Messner, Reed City; Howard Beatty, Saginaw 
1980 - Max Carey, Freesoil 
1981 - Steven Sluka, Grand Haven; Samuel Madden, Detroit
1982 - Ernest Buckholz, Mt. Clemens; T. Arthur Treloar, Petoskey
1983 - Leroy Dues, Detroit; Richard Maher, Sturgis 
1984 - William Hart, Marquette; Donald Stamats, Caro
1985 - John Cotton, Farmington; Robert James, Warren 
1986 - William Robinson, Detroit; Irving Soderland, Norway 
1987 - Jack Streidl, Plainwell; Wayne Hellenga, Decatur 
1988 - Jack Johnson, Dearborn; Alan Williams, North Adams
1989 - Walter Bazylewicz, Berkley; Dennis Kiley, Jackson 
1990 - Webster Morrison, Pickford; Herbert Quade, Benton Harbor 
1991 - Clifford Buckmaster, Petoskey; Donald Domke, Northville 
1992 - William Maskill, Kalamazoo; Thomas G. McShannock, Muskegon 
1993 - Roy A. Allen Jr., Detroit; John Duncan, Cedarville 
1994 - Kermit Ambrose, Royal Oak 
1995 - Bob Perry, Lowell 
1996 - Charles H. Jones, Royal Oak 
1997 - Michael A. Foster, Richland; Robert G. Grimes, Battle Creek 
1998 - Lofton C. Greene, River Rouge; Joseph J. Todey, Essexville 
1999 - Bernie Larson, Battle Creek 
2000 - Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo; Jerry Cvengros, Escanaba 
2001 - Norm Johnson, Bangor; George Lovich, Canton 
2002 - John Fundukian, Novi 
2003 - Ken Semelsberger, Port Huron
2004 - Marco Marcet, Frankenmuth
2005 - Jim Feldkamp, Troy
2006 - Dan McShannock, Midland; Dail Prucka, Monroe
2007 - Keith Eldred, Williamston; Tom Hickman, Spring Lake
2008 - Jamie Gent, Haslett; William Newkirk, Sanford Meridian
2009 - Paul Ellinger, Cheboygan
2010 - Rudy Godefroidt, Hemlock; Mike Boyd, Waterford
2011 - Eric C. Federico, Trenton
2012 - Bill Mick, Midland
2013 - Jim Gilmore, Tecumseh; Dave Hutton, Grandville
2014 - Dan Flynn, Escanaba

2015 - Hugh Matson, Saginaw
2016 - Gary Hice, Petoskey; Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2017 - Chuck Nurek, Rochester Hills
2018 - Gary Ellis, Allegan
2019 - Jim Derocher, Negaunee; Fredrick J. Smith, Stevensville
2020 - Michael Garvey, Lawton
2021 - Leroy Hackley Jr., Byron Center; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2022 - Bruce Horsch, Houghton

PHOTOS (Top) Karen Leinaar, left, awards the 2022 Division 4 volleyball finalist trophy to Indian River Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore. (Middle) Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998.