Although fewer athletes have been suspended for using banned substances, vaping in athletics is still increasing each year as younger students are influenced by older athletes. Editor-in-Chief Bitsy Mammel | Arts/ Entertainment Editor Hannah Woehrle | Staff Writer Isaiah Bridges

When Simon was playing varsity football last year, he vaped almost daily. Simon, a pseudonym given to an MHS senior to protect his and his teammates’ identities, started vaping while hanging out with older players on the team his sophomore year. After practice they would hang out at a player’s house, and almost always pass around a Juul or Suorin Air. It wasn’t until summer workouts this year when Simon realized the toll vaping was taking on his body.

“You don’t feel as good as you normally would,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have vaped, I feel like I would have been a lot stronger going into the workouts. But because I did it, I felt more tired and out of breath a lot more.”

After Simon realized that vaping was affecting him, he made the decision to stop. Even though he was still pressured to vape at the time, Simon knew that he wanted to change and lead his younger teammates on a different path.

“I just saw how terrible it was for you,” Simon said. “I saw how many kids started doing it, and I wanted to try to be a good example for them. I tried to tell them how bad it was

Varsity football coach Eric Methner said his team has never had an incident where a player has gotten caught vaping. Though Simon confirmed that although no one has been caught, he said there are players on the team who vape.

Eric Albright, Athletic Director and Assistant Principal, stated that MHS has actually had fewer suspensions in athletics over the past few years. However, he believes more people are vaping due to its easier accessibility.

Albright and Methner both said that in order to stop students from vaping, education about the drugs involved and the health risks must be provided, not only for the athletes, but for adults in the athletes’ lives as well.

“Education, awareness, all the available resources [should be used to discourage vaping],” Methner said. “Parents, teachers, coaches, and administration should become more educated on it and rally the troops to get everyone behind educating the kids.”

Currently, all coaches are to read a script to their athletes about making good choices and not partaking in activities like vaping. Methner said that this is to serve as a reminder for coaches to talk
to their athletes about making good decisions. He also said that although right now he does not talk about vaping any more than drugs and alcohol with his players, he expects to as he learns more about vaping and its role at MHS.

“We discuss with our kids about the importance of making smart choices,” Methner said. “Whether it be the alcohol or tobacco or vaping or anything like that that would jeopardize them from being able to participate.”

Varsity basketball coach Eric Krause said coaches should do more than just read the script given to them by the athletic department. He said coaches should talk to their athletes about their own life experiences.

“It’s better to be more honest and aware and to tell the kids that it’s never benefited you in the long run,” Krause said. “In my opinion that’s more powerful to me than to get the standard answers you’d get in a pamphlet.”

Simon doesn’t think that the speeches athletes receive from their coaches regarding good behavior is very beneficial. In fact, he says that usually the athletes who vape don’t listen to what their coaches say, or they don’t care.

“I think the messages need to go more into detail about what it can do to your body and the addiction to it,” Simon said. “I don’t feel most kids know how it can affect your lungs and your body.”

Methner and Krause say they don’t understand why teens vape. Simon, on the other hand, feels that vaping has risen in popularity due to younger students and athletes looking up to their older peers. He says that vaping is seen as a status symbol and that it can make the younger players fit in with the rest of the team.

“I think kids want to do it because they see the older kids do it and they just want to be cool,” Simon said.

Albright understands that the attitudes of students will control the effectiveness of the administration’s efforts against vaping. He doesn’t want vaping to become a part of the culture at Midland High, and hopes the students agree.

“It’s got to be intolerable to our student body too,” Albright said. “If it’s always adult against the students, it’s always going to be an uphill battle, because there are more of you. It has to come from the athletes themselves.