Sept. 22 through 24, members of the Mercyhurst athletic community attended the 2017 Division II APPLE Training Institute in Washington D.C.
Coordinated by the Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the University of Virginia, the prestigious conference brought together 40 select schools from around the country to learn about substance abuse prevention and the promotion of health and wellness.
Accompanied by Kutztown University, Mercyhurst was one of only two Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) institutions given the opportunity to bring a prevention team and represent the conference on a national ballot.
“It is a great opportunity to learn the APPLE model and bring initiatives to campus regarding student-athlete health, wellness and substance abuse prevention,” said certified athletic trainer Trisha Dimatteo. “It is also exciting to represent PSAC.”
Dimatteo was part of the five-person “prevention” team that represented the school over the weekend. Other members were Dr. Judy Smith, executive director of Wellness; Megan McKenna, director of Residence Life; and student athletes Joel Bowers and Diana Schmitt.
Team members attended presentations and discussions with various professionals from the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the National Center for Drug Free Sport, and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
“The speakers were fantastic. Linda Hancock from VCU was the keynote speaker Friday night and also spoke throughout the weekend,” said Dimatteo. “The team learned many ways to implement the seven slices of APPLE and ways to educate student-athletes on substance abuse prevention.”
The seven parts of the APPLE substance abuse prevention program — recruitment, expectations and attitudes, policies, education, drug testing, referral and counseling and sanctioning — were tools discussed at the conference that allowed schools to create a personalized prevention plan for their respective schools.
“I think that the information can help a tremendous amount,” said Schmitt. “There is a lot of room for improvement, and the Mercyhurst APPLE team has learned so much after attending the conference. Little things from questionnaires to developing whole new policies can create major improvements at Mercyhurst.”
Although the team has only been back for a few days, the team members are already using the information they gained at the conference to plan a better, healthier future for Mercyhurst student-athletes.
“Our first step is to organize a meeting with some of our faculty and administration to help get their support,” said Schmitt. “We have a step-by-step plan that the folks at APPLE helped us set up. This plan will take time to implement, but I am hopeful it will be successful.”
Students can expect initiatives regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs to be implemented on campus in the near future thanks to the prevention team and the Division II APPLE Training Institute.
“It’s hard to think that five people that attended a convention can affect 3,000 students in a college where drinking alcohol and doing drugs on the weekend is getting more normal,” said Bowers. “If the steps are done right at the right time, I believe that those five people can become a much larger number. We would just have to get people on our side and get it rolling.”