New concussion regulations impact athletes

Cam Winston went in for tackle against Fowlerville on Aug. 29.  After the play, a Fowlerville player hit Winston in the head, and Winston fell to the ground.  He laid there unconscious and knocked out for several minutes with a concussion.

“I felt confused and dizzy and had to remember what happened,” Winston said.

Concussions like the one Winston received can result in severe long term effects on a teen’s brain and affect their everyday life.

The Michigan Sports Concussion law enacted on June 30 requires all high school personnel involved in youth activity to take and complete an online concussion training program. The law also makes all athletes and their parents sign a waiver that lists all the symptoms and signs of concussions and requires all coaches to take an athlete out of physical activity if the athlete has a concussion or concussion-like symptoms.

By law, an athlete removed from physical activity must then must get a written statement from a doctor to be cleared to return to physical activity.

In addition, all Dexter athletes have to take a Sport Concussion Assessment before each season to see if they have a concussion.which allows head athletic trainer Leah Gagnon and the rest of the athletic department to evaluate a player’s status and symptoms.

“This allows us evaluate the player’s status,” Gagnon said.  “They have to answer a series a questions about their symptoms, and if they still experience symptoms of a concussion, they have to be monitored and evaluated by a doctor until cleared.”

Varsity football coach Ken Koenig said he puts a high priority on athlete safety but doesn’t think the law will necessarily help prevent concussions.

“You can’t legislate safety,” Koenig said. “It’s like wearing a seatbelt. The law requires you wear a seatbelt, but people are still not going to wear a seatbelt.”

But Gagnon said the the new law is a step in the right direction.

“I definitely thinks it’s important,” Gagnon said.  “For the last five years at least, I’ve required them to get a doctor’s notice anyways. It didn’t really change much of how we were managing it here, because we were already doing that. What it does help, is that it now gives me something where I can say, look it’s a (Michigan High School Athletic Association) regulation. It’s no longer me just making that decision.”

For Koenig, one of the most positive things the law does is raise student-athlete awareness of the symptoms and effects of concussions.

“Our kids are very aware about the symptoms of concussions,” Koenig said.  “They’re aware of it so much that they know what to look for and they know what to hide.”

This is something Gagnon notices to. While she said it’s good young athletes are more aware of concussion symptoms, this also means they are better at knowing how to cover up the symptoms too.

“More athletes are starting to know about concussions and the severity of it,” Gagnon said.  “It’s kind of a double-edge sword though. More kids are becoming educated on the severity of concussions,  but at the same time, for the kids that all they want to do is play, they are now better educated on what to hide.”

Despite the law and potential long-term physical effects, not all athletes are concerned about getting concussions.  Senior Freddy Burke has had 11 concussions and could be ruled out for the upcoming hockey season because of this.

But Burke still wants to play, even though he knows the potential for long-term damage.

“I really wanna play, but you gotta go out there and play,” Burke said.  “You can’t change your style of play because you’re afraid.”

Junior Michigan State wide receiver Keith Mumphery has the same sort of mindset. Despite receiving two concussions, he said he’s not going to change his style of play.

“You can’t go play this game (football) being worried of getting hit,” Mumphery said.  “You can’t go into the game with that kind of mindset.”

But Gagnon said these athletes really need to think about the long-term damage they could be doing to themselves including developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that is an inflammation in the brain that can cause loss of train of thought, brain trauma, extreme anger and death.

And it’s the second hit an athlete takes after an initial concussion that can be the most dangerous and result in the most severe long-term effects.

“That first hit that he takes is when he is concussed, that’s when the brain is damaged,” Gagnon said.  “There’s more and more things showing that its really that second hit that can seriously alter a kids life from that point forward.”

Swoverland steps down

WHAT HAPPENED:

After a coaching career that spanned more than 20 years in Dexter, varsity basketball coach Randy Swoverland quit his coaching job on Monday, Oct. 28. He officially announced he was stepping down after a week of isolating himself from interactions with his students and players.

Swoverland declined to be interviewed about his resignation or the incident, but the following account was confirmed by multiple sources who were present at various times throughout the situation.

THE INITIAL INCIDENT:

Senior captain Derek Seidl had just finished stretching. Two days previously, he had gone home exhausted after a tough workout. Now, he knew that he was about to be doing heavy lifting. Then Swoverland told the team that they part of their workout that day would be running sprints.

But Seidl told Swoverland that sprints were a bad idea because the team had open gym that night.

“We finished up we were doing, then he came over and yelled at me,” Seidl said. “I deserved to be yelled at, though, for speaking out like that in front of everyone. He wasn’t happy about what I said. I thought it would be over after that day.”

THE RESULT:

Seidl and Swoverland have known each other for years. But in the days following the incident between the two, Seidl said Swoverland stopped talking to him both during basketball and during school, where Swoverland teaches Seidl’s gym class.

“I was more confused and unsure than anything,” Seidl said. “I didn’t really know what was going on. I could tell that something was wrong and assumed it had something to do with the incident. I didn’t think it was going to escalate like that.”

So Seidl went to his dad, Matt Seidl, Swoverland’s friend and former assistant coach. Matt texted Swoverland to set up a meeting to talk about what was going on. But according to Matt, Swoverland didn’t answer the text in 24 hours, so Matt went to the next level.

“I went to Bavineau and Moran, just moving up the chain of command,” Matt said. “I didn’t ask for him to be fired, I didn’t ask for him to resign, I just wanted to bring attention to what I thought was not the right way to be treating kids.”

After the meeting, Derek said that his interactions with Swoverland beginning to return to normal. Then, all of a sudden, Swoverland called a team meeting, where he promptly told the team he was quitting, then left.

Swoverland mentioned the incident between he and Derek, and said that due to the circumstances, he was no longer able to coach the team.

“I think it was something that built up and this was just the last straw,” Matt said. “He was looking for a reason. I wish he would have took ownership of that instead of implying that it was one person or one thing, but so be it. Under stress people do weird things.”

Swoverland talked to Derek one-on-one the next day.

“Essentially, he felt like the team wasn’t buying in to what he was doing,” Derek said. “He thought that the incident between him and I was a sign that he was losing the team. The incident was the tipping point, because he didn’t know how the team was supposed to buy in if the captain wasn’t.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:

With no coach, going into the final two weeks before tryouts, the boys basketball team was facing a serious problem.

“I think it’s difficult to lose a coach, especially so soon before a season,” Athletic Director Mike Bavineau said. “I feel confident that we’ll be able to put a qualified coach in place to be able to help the boys basketball program. You obviously want to keep some continuity, something that the boys are comfortable with.”

Any time a coach quits or resigns, the Athletic Department is required to post the position first to members of the Dexter Education Association, the teachers’ union. In this case, the request was submitted on a shortened deadline because of how soon the season is approaching.

“We weren’t really looking for an interview process,” Bavineau said. “After posting internally to see if any DEA members were interested in the job, we decided that (former JV coach) Tim Fortescue would be able to fill the role.”

Fortescue was offered the job as interim varsity coach Oct. 29, after Bavineau met with him to talk about planning for the season. Bavineau said he wanted to keep Fortescue informed as the situation developed.

“Based on what I saw last year, Fortescue is very good at managing team chemistry,” Bavineau said. “He knows what each player’s skills and strengths are, and he uses them to their full potential. He’s good at defining roles on the team.”

Fortescue said his goal is for his players to work hard and enjoy doing it.

“As a coach, I try to bring a lot of positive energy to my players each day,” he said. “I want the team to work hard, set goals, and enjoy the experience of high school basketball.”

And Derek, though initially surprised by Swoverland resigning, is hopeful about the coming season.

“I completely respect Swoverland’s decision and am not mad at him at all for it,” Derek said, “but I’m excited for the upcoming season with Fortescue taking over. It’ll be new and different. It’ll be challenging, but in the end I think it will be fun and we can have a successful season.”

Weight room remodeled to the tune of $140 thousand

Using $120,000 in bond money and $20,000 from the Athletic Booster Club of Dexter, a $140,000 weight room remodelling had begun at Dexter High School.

“I think it was long overdue,” ABCD member Brad Hochrein said. “The size of our old weight room compared to the other schools in our district showed that we needed to expand it.”

The new weight room now includes all-new equipment including medicine balls, squat racks and enhanced air compression machines, which use compressed air in place of metal free-weights.

The renovation is an attempt to make the weight room more all-purpose, according to Athletic Director Mike Bavineau.

“The coaches and I got together, and the weight room was more of a football-type weight room,” Bavineau said. “So we wanted to make a more wide variety weight room for all sports.”

Hochrein also said the weight room needs to take in to account all sports in Dexter, not just football.

“Many sports require training in the offseason so that when the season comes, the players can perform,” Hochrein said.

But physical education teacher and former football coach Tom Barbieri–who bases a lot of class time around the weight room–said while he appreciates the changes, he wishes he was consulted more about how the new room would work.

“We have a lot more room, so it changes the class a little bit, but we will be all right,” Barbieri said. “My teaching station was being changed, and I had little input into the decision. I would have liked to have more input into the decision, but I’m OK with the changes.”

Bavineau, however, said he wanted to focus more on the athletic aspect of the new weight room and that he did talk to the gym teachers before the remodeling began.

“We wanted to focus more on the athletic approach when making the new weight room,” he said.

And Hochrein agrees with Bavineau’s approach. To him, the weight room needs to be something all sports programs and all students can benefit from.

He said, “Certainly there has been a good direction that sports programs have been taking in efforts to improve all the sports in the district.”

Bump, set, sign

Before hitting the court, all players in the volleyball program have to sign a social media contract prohibiting them from posting hurtful comments about the team, fellow players and opponents.

The contract is a replica of the contract the University of Michigan uses for its women’s volleyball team.

“At the old school I coached, people would write untrue things about their teammates to get them kicked off,” Days said. “I just don’t want to see that again. I wanted to put guidelines in place for the team to follow.”

Day is helping her athletes prepare for the future by teaching them to respect the permanency and prominence of social media. Volleyball player August Bishop recognizes the benefits.

“I actually like the idea behind the contract,” she said. “Our whole team supported it.”

Social media contracts such as these aren’t uncommon in high school sports due to the increasing prominence of social media in high school life.

Head varsity football coach Ken Koenig gave his team distinct rules to follow throughout the season. Positive or negative, every electronic comment toward the Dexter football program had to be posted only on the Dexter Football Touchdown Club Facebook page.

If a player violates this social media restriction, he is suspended for a game.

“If you’re going to say it, it should be something that can be read by everybody,” Koenig said.

He said he wants his team to make their decisions based on the acronym C.H.I.P.: Character, Honor, Integrity, and Pride.

“CHIP is the filter that our guys should run their ideas through,” he said.

But there are some sports teams that don’t feel social media poses a significant threat.

The women’s varsity basketball team doesn’t have a social media contract in effect. According to Assistant Coach Lauren Thompson, the coaching staff doesn’t think such a contract is necessary.

“We feel like our players respect our wishes on social media,” she said. “We think that they do a pretty good job of representing us in the right way. We have a good relationship with our players, and we trust them. They understand the expectations we have for them.”

However, even with its positive attitude, the basketball team isn’t immune to social networking scandals.

“We’ve had to not start players before,” Thompson said. “We don’t have any tolerance for any kind of negative social media stuff about our team or our opponents. Part of being a part of our program is to have high standards for ourselves, and they understand that we carry ourselves a certain way.”

Despite not having a concrete social media contract in place, basketball players still face consequences for any inappropriate social networking. Thompson encourages her girls to act respectably.

“We try to keep things as positive as we can,” she said. “Obviously we can’t control what our girls tweet and facebook about, but we want them to be as positive about us and our opponents as we can. If we see something that’s negative that they’re Tweeting or Facebooking, there are definite team consequences.”

Social media didn’t used to exist. Now its role in sports is rapidly increasing, with athletes constantly having to keep emotions under control in their social lives.

Dexter High School Athletic Director, Mike Bavineau, fears that students use social media without considering the repracautions of their posts. Bavineau believes putting guidelines in place is a smart way to get athletes in the habit of thinking before posting.

“My biggest priority is to educate kids on what they need to know and how social media will impact them eventually. As for contracts, I think the coach has to lay the expectations down for each of their individual teams and how they want their programs to run, so if they decide that they want their teams to have a contract, I support that,” Bavineau said.

Returning to the top

They’ve been sixth in the state for two years running and the mens water polo team hopes to continue the tradition.

However, according to Assistant Coach Andrew Leonard, the loss of graduated players and the lack of a big senior class, the team’s position in the state will be more difficult to maintain.

Last year, co-captains Max Merriman and Michael Garcia brought the team to states with a win against the higher-ranked Skyline team.

This year, the varsity team consisted of seniors, juniors and sophomores; however, there are fewer seniors and only one junior. The rest of the team is made up of sophomores.

“Experience is the best teacher,” senior Max Korinek said. “That’s why we could struggle this year. It’s such a young team.”

There have been three tournaments so far this year, resulting in only three Dexter wins out of approximately 12 games. The team faced a state champ Rockford team, the state runners-up Huron and another top four-ranked team, Pioneer. All of these games resulted in losses.

The road to states will mean facing teams like Rockford, Huron and Pioneer again. While the the team had its first season win against Chelsea recently, they will have to play Saline and Ann Arbor Pioneer for district rankings.

After all the district games, if they place first or second, then they can advance to regionals against either Saline or Pioneer, which coach Leonard said could be difficult for the young team.

If this can be done, the water polo team will have to play state-ranked Ann Arbor Huron again, along with Ann Arbor Skyline and Okemos. But senior captain Andrew Watson said despite the rough schedule, the team will still enjoy the season.

He said, “It’ll be a tough season for us, but we’ll make the best of it and have a good time in and out of the water.”

Mens soccer hopes to return to states

The mens soccer team is coming off a season in which they went to states and finished in the final four. Currently ranked sixth in the state with an 8-3-1 record, the possibility of returning to states isn’t out of the question according to Coach Scott Forester who thinks it’s hard to consider the postseason yet.

Forester said, “With three weeks left in the regular season, it’s hard to think that far ahead.”

Senior Owen Brooks agrees.

“It’s hard not to look ahead, but that’s definitely a mindset we have to have.We still have a lot of games left before the playoffs and those are what we need to focus on right now.”
Even though districts are a distance away, Forester thinks there will be strong teams that can compete well with Dexter.

Forester said, “Our district draw hasn’t occurred yet however, strong teams like Mason and Chelsea are in there, which will it make it difficult to win at that level of the tournament.”

The tough challenges moving forward may prove a test for Dexter, but they’ve beaten tough teams before and know how to play against tough opponents. This gives them an advantage over other teams because of that experience that is valuable to the teams success according to Forester.

Forester said, “The team has shown an ability to take on the best and compete well with them.”
The team is experienced too as eight out of the 11 starters from last year return the two captains, seniors Levi Kipke and Tony Pisto. Forester said they bring leadership and an understanding on how to return to states and what it takes to get back.

Forester said, “Having them for another year, knowing what it takes to compete at the highest level, they are able to share that with their teammates.”
With the leadership of their captains, Brooks said the team knows how to return to states and know that they can.

He said, “Having been to to states once was an awesome experience, but it makes us want to work even harder this year to go all the way.”
Being to states before, the dreadnaughts know what to expect from the other teams that made it that far and how to prepare for them.

Brooks said, “We know what to expect and the types of teams we will be up against.”

The experience of Kipke and Pisto, trickle down to the new players too including junior Jake Rayer.

“Their experience really helps us out and helps us to achieve our goal,” Rayer said. They give constructive criticism and when we’re struggling, they help us get over our struggles and get better. This helps us get ready for the postseason and help us go to return to states.”