‘Tis (out of) the Season

April 2, 2015

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

Those who live in close proximity to high schools throughout Michigan don’t even need a calendar to know what time of year it is when a new sports season begins.

Whistles piercing through the hum of their air conditioners on the first Monday morning in August mark the start of fall from nearby football facilities. The ping of aluminum as sidewalks and grass re-appear from winter’s grip signifies the start of spring.

Office supply stores could see calendar sales soar in those households – or occupants might at least do a double-take when checking smartphone calendars – in the near future if MHSAA out-of-season coaching regulations are modified. The familiar sounds of the seasons could resonate in non-traditional months as well.

A major topic of the recent MHSAA Update Meetings and AD In-Services in the fall was the possibility of revamping the regulations regarding out-of-season contact for school coaches with school teams during the school year. The Summer Dead Period would remain in place and has been largely supported by membership since it was implemented for the 2007-08 school year.

It should be noted that out-of-season revision is not a certainty, but simply in the exploratory stage at this point.

Yet, the time was ripe to initiate discussion on this topic in the fall. The growth of non-school athletic programs and demands placed upon students by such entities in recent years was one factor. The difficulty the MHSAA has enforcing – and schools have interpreting – current out-of-season coaching regulations is another factor.

“The fundamental question is how to allow more contact between coaches and students out of season without encouraging single-sport participation,” MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts said.

Can this be done? Can trends toward specialization and away from multi-sport participation be reversed through greater contact periods for each sport within the school year?

Proponents of this school of thought believe that time otherwise spent with non-school coaches would be best served with education-based coaches who, in theory, would be on the same page with peers at their school, all encouraging multi-sport participation.

“Part of the explosion of AAU and club involvement has been the perpetuation of the notion that without additional training and competition, students will not reach their potential nor maximize their chances of being recruited by colleges,” said Scott Robertson, athletic director at Grand Haven. “When our high school coaches have the ability to provide a similar experience, but with an education-first mindset regulated by athletic directors, the expectations of student-athletes by coaches can be tempered.”

It is a lively debate that will be picking up momentum for the remainder of this school year and into the next.

Following are some of the concepts and comments from the fall, with key points from a statewide survey to be published later this week. The MHSAA's Representative Council discussed these results at its March meeting, and action is possible during its final meeting of the school year in May.

Let's begin 

Perhaps the most criticized, misinterpreted, ignored, and/or difficult to enforce rule in the MHSAA Handbook resides in Regulation II, Section 11 (H): the three- and four-player rule for coaches out of season during the school year. (See bottom of this page.)

Debate has long spiraled in dizzying circles around definitions such as “open gyms,” “under one roof,” “conditioning,” “drills,” and other components.

“One of the problems is the MHSAA finds this specific rule difficult to enforce and interpret,” MHSAA Associate Director Tom Rashid said. “Another perceived problem is that there might be a disconnect between school coaches and students out of season, which might be driving students toward non-school programs.”

It’s simple to recognize lightning rods, but quite another to construct a device for harvesting the sparks in a productive manner. To that end, Rashid prepared an outline for discussion on the topic as he hit the trails around Michigan this fall for Update Meetings and AD In-Services.

“We felt we needed to see if we could do better,” Rashid said. “Rather than say to 600 ADs, ‘What do you think about out-of-season coaching rules?’ we asked about a new concept. We created a starting point for discussion.”

The basic premise brought forward to the masses was this: a voluntary contact period of one month to six weeks with a limit of 10 or 15 days of contact in that period – and perhaps three in any one week – between a coach and his/her athletes out of season with any number of students, grade 7-12. Due to large participation numbers in football, some consideration was given to limiting the number of players in any one out-of-season session to 11, thus not creating “spring football.”

A straw poll from the gatherings in the fall indicated nearly 70 percent of attendees in favor of “contact periods” versus the current rule, prompting a detailed survey to all member schools sent in October to further measure the climate and hone in on specifics for desired changes.

“It was a very open process with great discussion,” Rashid said. “All size schools, all demographics, and all corners of the state weighed in.”

As always, the devil is in the detail, and the October survey yielded plenty of detail.

Numbers favor no numbers

As mentioned earlier, nearly 70 percent of attendees at MHSAA fall gatherings indicated that they might prefer a rule that specified coaching contact periods outside their sport during the school year, as opposed to limiting the number of student-athletes per session.

The ensuing survey sent to member schools in late October reflects that sentiment in schools of all sizes, and in all zones of the state. On the topic of counting contact days out of season with no limit on the number of students involved, more than 72 percent of 514 responding schools favored the plan. Class A schools led the way with nearly 76 percent  in support. Class D schools chimed in at 69 percent in favor. Support was strong across the zones of the state as well, led by the Detroit metro area (Zone 3) at 76.5. The middle of the state (Zone 5) was the low, but still found close to 60 percent in favor of such a revision.

The survey revealed consistencies across the board relative to the amount of three- and four-player sessions currently utilized by schools of different sizes, and the support and opposition to questions regarding revised regulations on the topic. For instance, nearly 50 percent of Class A schools indicate that their coaches work with students under the current rule most every week during the offseason, while 40 percent of Class D schools report that most of their coaches never utilize the three- or four-player rule at all out of season. Not surprisingly then, in questions posed where three-and four-player stipulations might still exist, the larger schools favored such changes at a higher rate than the smaller schools.

Survey data also reveals a reason for such opposition at lower-enrollment schools: a simple numbers game. In Class C and D, the majority of schools report that 60-80 percent of their student-athletes participate in more than one sport. So, with more students busier year-round than at their larger school counterparts, there are fewer people to attend out-of-season sessions.

Similarly, the concept of extending the current preseason down time for all sports was supported more in Class C and D schools than Class A and B. 

“It is always a challenge for individual schools to see things from the other schools’ perspectives,” Rashid said. “It’s hard for people to say, ‘It might be different for us, but for the greater good, we might have to change our culture here.’”

But, that line of thinking is certainly understood at Chelsea High School, a Class B school of more than 800 students. Athletic director and football coach Brad Bush is an advocate of multi-sport participation, regardless of school size.

“The current three- or four-player rule benefits kids by developing skills, but does not force kids to feel pressure to be at a full practice,” Bush said. “Changing this rule could reduce the number of multiple-sport athletes. Our staff and league is united in believing that changing this rule could be a big mistake.”

Outside influence

Part of the balancing act in attempting to revise out-of-season rules is to encourage greater participation on school teams, while not promoting specialization.

Interestingly, a number of schools in the survey reported that they have policies in place limiting in-season athletes from attending sports-specific training from out-of-season coaches. The percentages ranged from 27.6 percent in Class D to 41 percent in Class B.

Most schools allow weightlifting during the season, followed in decreasing order by three- or four- player workouts, conditioning and open gyms. However, more than 40 percent of responding schools have in place a policy prohibiting non-school competition for in-season athletes. The message seems to be that if activity is taking place, the preference is for it to be under supervision, and for that supervision to come from school coaches.

“If a coach is going to hold three workouts per week out of season, a student may leave another sport to play in the offseason of their preferred  sport,” Rashid said. “As such, many ADs identified that it would be the role of each school to regulate  out-of-season coaching. Right now, the ADs have to keep a handle on out-of-season activities and if the rules change, depending on their demographic, they might need to be involved even more.”

With advance planning, an environment can be created in which all of a school’s sports can exist in harmony and encourage multi-sport membership.

“Athletic directors can guide all coaches on their staffs to work together to create 12-month calendars that focus on the needs of kids and respect the desire of many to participate in multiple sports,” Robertson said. “In doing so, coaches can work to avoid overlaps in important opportunities where kids may be put in win-lose situations. With careful planning student-athletes will be afforded more opportunities to train and develop with their classmate peers and within their own communities.”

Chris Ervin, athletic director at St. Johns High School, is one of many in the camp that believes the current system accomplishes a school’s missions when properly supervised.

“Our coaches have ample opportunities to coach in the three- or four-player setting, and our athletes have plenty of opportunities to improve their skill sets through open gyms which are not coach-directed,” Ervin said.

Others agree that any change might introduce unwanted consequences. One source, an administrator in a strong football community, speculates in that town and others like it, football programs could smother other sport programs by scheduling full workouts on top of other in-season sports. Voluntary or not, it is opined that kids would gravitate toward the out-of-season football workouts if that’s the signature sport in town.

Ervin can see the same point. “I don't see this affecting my role too much, but I do believe this could lead to even more specialization. For example, if football coaches are able to work with their players 11 at a time in the offseason, I believe athletes will feel more pressure to be part of that football workout while they are in-season with another sport.”

Under another scenario, school coaches might someday be allowed to coach non-school teams during the school year. The rationale is that if students are participating outside the school campus anyway, wouldn’t it be better that they are coached by school personnel so that the educational message is delivered appropriately?

Add to this the fact that 100 percent of surveyed schools reported conducting open gyms in basketball and 66 percent in volleyball – the two most high-profile AAU sports – would it benefit schools to have trained personnel in those non-school leadership roles?

“This would connect our coaches to school kids but also could have the unintended consequence of specialization,” Rashid said. “However, the coaches in place would be our coaches, whereas currently we don’t have a say in the AAU coaches of our students.”

Not yet. This topic on the survey was favored by roughly 60 percent overall, but an equal 20.4 percent were at opposite ends of the spectrum strongly in favor and strongly against, with the highest percentage falling just above lukewarm. 

By Class, the C and D schools were slightly more opposed to this idea than Class A and B. Why? Very often, in the smaller communities, there are no non-school opportunities; school sports are the only option.

Robertson believes that incorporating a revised out-of-season coaching plan could assist families financially in the long run.

“By having the ability to include larger numbers of kids in development activities and allowing for a limited number of competitions, there is a strong likelihood that students and their families will choose the out-of-season activities offered by their schools over the AAU/club activities that exist,” Robertson said. “In doing so, there will be no rental of outside gyms, no mandatory club fees, and reduced costs to families.”

Not all ideas have elicited opposing views. One item on the docket that schools uniformly opposed was the possibility of scrimmages within the out-of-season contact period. Most schools indicate a preference for these periods to be instructional only.

Just a tweak

Perhaps the current rule just needs a splint and not a full cast. Maybe it’s not broken after all.

The most popular proposal to emerge from the survey was simply the removal of three little words in the current regulation: “under one roof.”

More than 80 percent of schools favored removing the phrase “under one roof” from Regulation II, Section 11(H) 2. a., which means as long as only three or four students are receiving coaching, then others may be in the facility working on conditioning, or in groups on their own.

Receiving close to 70 percent support from schools is the prospect of removing the portion of Handbook Interpretation 237 which currently prohibits schools from setting up rotations. This would allow a coach to work with dozens of players, three and four at a time.

And, Robertson says, in less time than coaches are currently expending.

“Most high school coaches already commit an enormous amount of time to the offseason development of student-athletes,” he said. “By removing the limit on number of athletes they can have contact with at one time and by placing a limit on the number of dates they can actually have this direct instructional contact, the net gain will be fewer dates, but with a greater impact.”

Rashid forecasts slight modifications of current rules rather than wholesale changes, at least in the near future.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if a few changes come sooner than later,” Rashid said. “One, allow rotations in the three- or four-player rule. Two, allow more than three kids under one roof as long as only three kids are receiving coaching. These two are a broader interpretations of our current rules.”

Simpler could be the answer. Perhaps over the course of time, in trying to be everything to all schools, the rule became more difficult for schools to follow, and for the MHSAA to oversee. Outside influences that could not have been predicted a generation ago have crept into the picture as well.

“These rules are very old, and that doesn’t mean not good,” Rashid said. “They were written at a time when the majority of students played multiple sports; before students began playing in 3rd and 4th grades, and before the non-school sports explosion.”

Even with the current trends and abundance of choices for some athletes, there are strong feelings from various leaders to leave things status quo.

“Our staff and league believes there needs to be a greater emphasis on the current rules with stronger punishments,” Bush said. “The answer is to enforce to current rules that we have, and not change the rules.”

There is a certain irony to this topic in front of athletic administrators and coaches, who spend so many hours in the here and now; in-season, in practices, in games.

“Who would think that what you do out of season could be the most critical piece of school sports discussion that we’ve had?” Rashid ponders. “It’s not what happens during the season, but in the offseason, that might be at the core of encouraging and maintaining school sports participation.”

Current Out-of-Season Rule (Three- or Four-Player Rule)

From MHSAA Handbook, Regulation II, Section 11(H):

2. These limitations out of season apply to coaches:

a. Outside the school season during the school year (from Monday the week of Aug. 15 through the Sunday after Memorial Day observed), school coaches are prohibited from providing coaching at any one time under one roof, facility or campus to more than three (or four) students in grades 7-12 of the district or cooperative program for which they coach (four students if the coaching does not involve practice or competition with students or others not enrolled in that school district). This applies only to the specific sport(s) coached by the coach, but it applies to all levels, junior high/middle school and high school, and both genders, whether the coach is paid or volunteer (e.g., a volunteer JV boys soccer coach may not work with more than three girls in grades 7-12 outside the girls soccer season during the school year).

Retired Official Gives Alpena AD New Life with Donated Kidney - 'Something I Had to Do'

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 3, 2024

TAWAS CITY – Jon Studley woke up Feb. 20 with a lot of fond memories on his mind, which turned into a collection of 47 photos posted to Facebook showing how he’d lived a fuller life over the past year with Dan Godwin’s kidney helping power his body.

There was Studley at the beach, taking a sunset shot with wife Shannon and their 5-year-old daughter Maizy. In others Dad and daughter are at the ice rink, making breakfast and hitting pitches in the yard. Studley made it to Ford Field to cheer on the Lions, supported his Alpena High athletes at MHSAA Finals and traveled to Orlando for a national athletic directors conference.

Their faces are beaming, a far cry from much of 2021 and 2022 and the first few months of 2023 as the Studleys and Godwins built up to a weekend in Cleveland that recharged Jon’s body and at least extended his life, if not saved it altogether.

“People that saw me before transplant, they thought I was dying,” Studley recalled Feb. 21 as he and Godwin met to retell their story over a long lunch in Tawas. “That’s how bad I looked.

“(I’m) thankful that Dan was willing to do this. Because if he didn’t, I don’t know what would’ve happened.”

By his own admission, Studley will never be able to thank Godwin enough for making all of this possible. But more on that later.

Studley and Godwin – a retired probation officer and high school sports official – hope their transplant journey together over the last 23 months inspires someone to consider becoming a donor as well.

For Studley, the motivation is obvious. Amid two years of nightly 10-hour dialysis cycles, and the final six months with his quality of life dipping significantly, Studley knew a kidney transplant would be the only way he’d be able to reclaim an active lifestyle. And it’s worked, perhaps better than either he or Godwin imagined was possible.

For Godwin, the reasons are a little different – and admittedly a bit unanticipated. He’d known Studley mostly from refereeing basketball games where Studley had served as an athletic director. He’d always appreciated how Studley took care of him and his crew when they worked at his school. But while that was pretty much the extent of their previous relationship, some details of Studley’s story and similarities to his own really struck Godwin – and led him to make their lifelong connection.

“It’s been rewarding for me. I have told Jon, and I’ve said this to anyone who would listen, that I’m grateful and feel lucky that I’ve been part of this process,” Godwin said. “I don’t feel burdened. I don’t feel anything except a sense of appreciation to Jon that he took me on this journey. I didn’t expect that, but that’s how I feel.”   

Making a connection

As of March, there were 103,223 people nationwide on the national organ transplant waiting list, with 89,101 – or more than 86 percent – hoping for a kidney, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). More than 46,000 transplants were performed in 2023, including the sharing of more than 27,000 kidneys.

Godwin giving one to Studley was among them.

Studley, 43, has served in school athletics for most of the last two decades since graduating with his bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University. After previously serving as an assistant at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, he became the school’s athletic director at 2009. He moved to Caro in 2012, then to his alma mater Tawas in 2015 for a year before going to Ogemaw Heights. He then took over the Alpena athletic department at the start of the 2020-21 school year, during perhaps the most complicated time in Michigan school sports history as just months earlier the MHSAA was forced to cancel the 2020 spring season because of COVID-19.

He's respected and appreciated both locally and statewide, and was named his region’s Athletic Director of the Year for 2019-20 by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Concurrently with serving at Sacred Heart and earning his master’s at CMU, Studley served as athletic director of Mid Michigan College as that school brought back athletics in 2010 for the first time in three decades. He also served four years on the Tawas City Council during his time at Tawas High and Ogemaw Heights.

Studley cheers on Alpena athletes during last season’s MHSAA Track & Field Finals at Rockford High School.Toward the end of his senior year of high school in 2001, Studley was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. For the next two decades, he managed his diabetes primarily with insulin and other medication. But during that first year at Alpena, his health began to take a turn. Studley had been diagnosed with a heart condition – non-compaction cardiomyopathy – which led him to Cleveland Clinic for testing. A urine test in Cleveland indicated his kidneys might not be working like they should – which led to a trip to a specialist and eventually the diagnosis of kidney failure and the start of dialysis, with a kidney transplant inevitable.

Dialysis long has been a standard treatment for people with kidney issues. But it can take a toll. In Studley’s case, that meant being tired all the time – to the point of falling asleep at his desk or having to pull over while driving. He wasn’t receiving enough nutrients and was unable to lift things because of the port for the dialysis tube. Extra fluid building up that his body wouldn’t flush made him constantly uncomfortable.

The next step was transplant, and in July 2021 he was approved to receive a kidney.

The Studleys thought they had a prospect early on, as an aunt on Shannon’s side was a candidate for a paired match – her blood and tissue types weren’t a match for Studley, but matched another person on the waiting list whose donor would be a candidate to give Studley a kidney. But that didn’t work out.

Others showed interest and asked about the process, especially after Studley’s 20-year class reunion in 2021, but nothing concrete came about. Amid the early disappointment, Studley took some time to consider his next move – and then put out a plea over Facebook that fall to his close to 1,000 connections hoping that someone, anyone, might consider.

“I took a week to really think about it – this is what I’m asking for someone to do. I had to get over it in my mind that it was OK to ask,” Studley said. “I’m going to ask someone to make a sacrifice for me, and that’s not me. I always want to help everybody else.”

Godwin is that way too. And immediately after reading Studley’s post, he knew he needed to consider making a call.

Strong match

Godwin had moved to Tawas City from Midland in 2014, and after a few years off from officiating decided to get back on the court that following winter.

He thinks he and Studley may have crossed paths at some point during Studley’s tenures at Sacred Heart and Caro, but it was at Tawas where they got to know each other. Although Studley stayed at Tawas just one school year, Godwin continued officiating for him at Ogemaw Heights – and in fact, Godwin’s final game in 2018 was there, during the District basketball tournament. That night, during the first quarter, Godwin tore the plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He didn’t know if he’d be able to finish the game – the officials from the first game that night stuck around to step in just in case – but thanks in part to Studley connecting Godwin with the Alpena trainer during halftime, he was able to get through the final two quarters and finish his officiating career on his feet.

They’d become Facebook “friends” at some point, so Godwin had seen Studley’s posts over the years with Shannon and Maizy. And when he saw Studley ask for help, something hit him – “immediately.”

Godwin and Studley meet for the first time after the transplant, and again six months later. “I have a 5-year-old granddaughter, almost exactly the same age as Jon’s, and I’m the dad of one child, a daughter, so there were those connections,” Godwin said. “It almost didn’t feel like there was a choice. It felt like it was something I had to do.”

Godwin is 66 and always has been in good health. He’s also always been an organ donor on his driver's license and given blood, things like that. But he had never considered sharing an organ as a living donor until reading Studley’s post.

He read it again to his wife Laurie. They talked it over. He explained why he felt strongly about donating, even to someone he didn’t know that well. After some expected initial fears, Laurie was in. Their daughter had the same fears – What about the slight chance something could go wrong? – but told Laurie she knew neither of them would be able to change her dad’s mind.

“It took me a while to get on board with it, even though I knew in the vast majority of cases somebody who donates an organ is going to be absolutely fine. It’s still major surgery,” Laurie said. “I guess he was just feeling so much like it was something he wanted to do, and he is a very healthy physically fit person. So I felt the odds were really good that he was going to be fine.

“And really, probably, the deciding factor was Maizy. We have a granddaughter the same age, so we were just thinking she needs a dad.”

After a few more days of contemplation, Dan called Cleveland Clinic to find out how to get started.

Then he texted Studley.

“I was nervous saying yes. At first, I didn’t know what to say – I just kept saying, ‘You don’t have to do this, but I appreciate it,’” Studley said. “I never want to have somebody do something for me unless (the situation is dire) … so I told him thank you and I appreciate it, and no pressure.”

Generally, Studley said, the donor and recipient don’t receive information on how the other person is progressing through the process. Godwin, however, kept Studley in the loop, which was a good thing. “But then you’re wondering if it’s going to happen,” Studley said, “if it’s truly a match.”

The initial blood test showed that Godwin wasn’t just a match, but a “strong” match, meaning they share a blood type – the rarest, in fact – and Godwin also didn’t have the worrisome antibodies that could’ve caused his kidney to refuse becoming part of Studley’s body.

That was amazing news. But just the start. “There was so much more we had to go through just to get to surgery day,” Studley said.

Long road ahead

Studley relates the transplant process to a job interview. After meeting with a potential boss, the candidate must wait for an answer – and it could come the next day, or the next week, or months later.

There were several more tests for both to take to make sure the transplant had not only a strong enough chance of being successful, but also wouldn’t be harmful for either of them.

“Right up until the time of the donation, (things) can happen. Like they did blood work on me the Friday before the kidney transplant on Monday, and if that had showed something they were going to send me home,” Godwin said. “So I just kept thinking, is this going to work? It seemed that there were more things that could go wrong than the possibility that it could go right. And that sets everybody up for disappointment – me, because I was invested in doing it, and of course Jon and his family because it was important to them.”

Godwin made a trip to Cleveland Clinic in November – about three months before the surgery. It wasn’t a great visit. His electrocardiogram showed a concern, and a few suspicious skin lesions were an issue because donors must be cancer-free. Almost worse, he couldn’t get in for a follow-up appointment for six weeks.

The wait felt longer knowing not only that there was a possibility for disappointment for Studley, but also the potential something could be unwell with Godwin. But then came good news – at his follow-up, Godwin aced his stress test, alleviating any heart concerns, and the dermatologist said the lesions were basal cell carcinoma and not considered risky to the transplant.

Over the next three months, both Godwin and Studley continued to do whatever they could to keep the transplant on track. To avoid COVID, Godwin and his wife isolated as much as they could, and Studley began wearing a mask frequently at work. Godwin cut out alcohol and coffee and began walking regularly to keep in tip-top shape.

In January 2023, both got the final OK, and the surgery was scheduled for Feb. 20.

But that wasn’t the end of the anxiety.

Studley also had undergone a series of tests and doctor visits, and two days before the transplant he had to get a tooth removed to avoid a possible infection.

Then, on the way from Alpena to Cleveland, Studley’s vehicle hit a deer.

“How is this going to go now?” he recalled thinking. “This is how it started. What’s going to happen now?”

Both arrived in Cleveland safely, eventually. The families stayed apart all weekend, Studley and Godwin communicating briefly by text to check in. There were a few more stop-and-go moments. Godwin’s Friday blood work showed something unfamiliar that ended up harmless. On the day of the surgery, Studley was wheeled to just outside the operating room – and then taken back to his hospital room for another 15 minutes of suspense. Once Studley made it into the operating room, his doctors had to pause during the surgery to tend to an emergency.

But finally, the transplant was complete. And seemingly meant to be. Godwin’s kidney was producing urine for Studley’s body before the surgeons had finished closing him up.

Back on his feet

Studley said he knew he’d be fine once he could start walking the hallways at the hospital; he started doing so the next morning. Later that same day after transplant, on the way back from one of those walks, he saw Godwin for the first time since they’d both arrived in Cleveland. “It was absolutely emotional,” Godwin said.

Godwin went home four days after the surgery. Studley stayed the next month with appointments and labs twice a week. Shannon remained with him the first week, then friends Mike Baldwin and Josh Renkly and Studley’s father Larry took turns as roommates for a week apiece.

For the first three months, including his first two back in Alpena, Studley couldn’t go anywhere except for the trip to Cleveland every other week – which has now turned into every other month with virtual appointments the months in between. Total he missed about six months of work – and thanked especially assistant athletic director and hockey coach Ben Henry for shouldering the load in his absence.

Studley’s checkups are full of more good news. His body is showing no signs of rejecting the kidney. And as long as he keeps his diabetes under control, that shouldn’t affect his new organ either.

Shannon sees the difference while comparing a pair of family trips. The Studleys went to Disney World while Jon was on dialysis, and she said he made it through but got home just “depleted.” This past spring break, the family went to Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Jon had visibly more energy for hiking and other activities. The last six months of dialysis, Jon was sleeping a lot, but this spring he’s helping coach Maizy’s T-ball team and overall is able to spend more quality time with her.

“Most of (Maizy’s) life she’s only known him as sick Dad,” said Shannon, a counselor at Alpena’s Thunder Bay Junior High. “He wasn’t able to do a lot of things with her, and I’ve seen a lot more of that, and I think she notices.”

Studley, his wife Shannon and daughter Maizy enjoy a moment after Jon had returned to good health.Jon will be taking anti-rejection medicine and a steroid every 12 hours for the rest of his life, but that and some other little life adjustments are more than worth it. All anyone has to do is look at those 47 photos from the Facebook post to understand why.

Godwin said he feels better now than he did even before surgery. He does his checkups with Cleveland Clinic over the phone. He also said that if Studley had been found at some point late in the process to be unable to except the kidney, Godwin still would’ve given it to someone else on the waiting list. “I was so invested at that point,” Godwin remembered. “That kidney was going.”  

The two families got together for a reunion in August in Tawas, where they had lunch and walked the pier and the Godwins met Maizy for the first time. She doesn’t really get what’s transpired, but definitely notices Dad doesn’t have a tube coming out of his body at night anymore.

And it’s clear the two men value the connection they’ve made through this unlikely set of circumstances.

“His attitude has been inspiring,” Godwin said. “Because you’ve been through the mill (and) I’ve never heard a negative thing, ‘poor me’ or anything. And I think maybe that’s what helps keep you going.”

“You talk to people who know Dan, and they said, ‘That’s Dan. That’s what Dan does,’” Studley said, speaking of Godwin’s gift and then addressing him directly. “The hardest part for me, the biggest struggle … is there’s no way I’m going to ever be able to thank you for this.

“It’s like the post I posted yesterday on Facebook. I posted pictures of everything I had done in the last year, and a lot of it was stuff that I hadn’t done in a long time. My way to thank Dan is just living my life the best I can, enjoying my family. … For me, it’s changed my perspective.”

As lunch finished up, Godwin did have one ask in return – not for one of Studley’s organs, but to be part of a special moment that helped drive him to donate 12 months earlier.

“This isn’t the venue, but I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve never asked for anything and I don’t want anything,” Godwin said, “but I would like to go to Maizy’s wedding.”

“Yeah, you … yes. Yes,” Studley replied. “You can go to anything you want to go to with my family.”

“I’d like to be there.”

“You will definitely be there.”

“I was at my daughter’s wedding,” Godwin said, noting again that connection between the men’s families, and the importance he felt in Studley being there for Maizy like he’d been there for his child.

“You say that, but there were times I didn’t know if I’d make it to Maizy’s wedding. I might not make it to see her graduate. So …” Studley trailed off, ready to take the next step in his life rejuvenated.

Studley emphasized the continuing need for kidney donors and refers anyone interested in learning more to the National Kidney Registry.

PHOTOS (Top) Alpena athletic director Jon Studley, left, and retired MHSAA game official Dan Godwin take a photo together on the shore of Lake Huron one year after Godwin donated a kidney to Studley. (2) Studley cheers on Alpena athletes during last season’s MHSAA Track & Field Finals at Rockford High School. (3) Godwin and Studley meet for the first time after the transplant, and again six months later. (4) Studley, his wife Shannon and daughter Maizy enjoy a moment after Jon had returned to good health. (Top photo by Geoff Kimmerly; other photos provided by Jon Studley.)