Alaska high school football players hospitalized after near drowning during 'team building exercise'

Photo: Getty Images

Three Alaska high school football players were hospitalized after the nearly drowned during a conditioning workout in the pool which has also been referred to as a “team building exercise.”As reported by the Associated Press, three members of the West Valley High School (Fairbanks, Ak.) were hospitalized after nearly drowning in the deep end of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks swimming pool.

Ambulances arrived at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks’ Patty Center around 7:30 Friday evening, per the AP and found three athletes who were, “unresponsive after being rescued from the deep end of the pool,” per a university spokesperson. While a lifeguard and parents of players in the program were present during the planned two-hour conditioning workout, they were unable to immediately aid the teens who sank when their team members were successfully treading water.

All three were later resuscitated with CPR and transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. According to the AP, one of the victims was released Saturday, fewer than 24 hours after the near drowning. Another went home Sunday, leaving just one student still hospitalized as of Monday evening, per Walker.

Sharice Walker, the public relations director for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the West Valley athletes were engaged in a, “team building exercise,” during an optional preseason football activity when the three teens dropped to the bottom of the pool.

All West Valley football practices and activities were canceled in the aftermath of the accident.

It remains to be seen if any of the team’s coaches, parents or other officials will be held accountable for the planning or execution of the planned two-hour conditioning workout. That the workout was an optional, unofficial offseason training activity, even a week before teams officially kick off fall practices, would likely make that possibility more complicated than it might otherwise appear.

Either way, for the players who remain, a new dilemma emerges: How can they practice when their coach is suspended? For now, the head of the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) has recommended that the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District consider having coaches of other district football teams run practices for the West Valley team so that they are eligible to compete in their opening games of the season; an ASAA bylaw says all players competing for a team must have 10 individual days of practice before they can compete in any game action.

“We are working with the school district, once they are able to conclude their investigation then we’ll determine what steps would be appropriate for ASAA to make.” ASAA’s Executive Director Billy Strickland told Fairbanks NBC affiliate KTVF. “I have suggested to the school district to consider having some of their other school’s coaching staff run practices so that this bylaw doesn’t keep them from being able to play their first couple of games of the year.”

More Football