Dowd Tackles Chemical Health Violations through Greater Communication


Mr. Dowd speaks to team captains about school and athletic issues. He plans to meet with captains monthly.

Anna Van der Linden

Mr. Dowd speaks to team captains about school and athletic issues. He plans to meet with captains monthly.
Mr. Dowd speaks to team captains about school and athletic issues on September 29. He plans to meet with captains monthly. (Photo/ Julia Adams)   

During the 2014-2015 school year, Walpole High School had over 50 chemical health violations by athletes. In the entire Bay State League, there were over 90 reported violations by athletes, although two athletic directors did not share their town’s data. These incidents in Walpole made up a clear majority of these reported league incidents. One major consequence of this data is a large amount of athletic suspensions.

 This year, Athletic Director Ron Dowd has a new plan to tackle the chemical health problem and bring our violation numbers down.

“This is a we problem, not just a student problem. It’s all of us together,” said Dowd.

 The punishment for a first chemical health offense for an athlete is a suspension from 25% of his or her games. For second and further violations, the game suspension can reach up to 60%. These suspension rules change every few years in the handbook, but one thing has remained consistent: the mandatory Chemical Health Night.

 For years, students interested in playing a sport packed into the gym with their parents each fall to hear a lengthy presentation about drinking, drug use, and staying safe. Speakers like ex-Patriots player Anthony Collins in 2014 and ex-Celtics player Chris Herron in 2012 shared the devastating consequences of drugs in their athletic lives.

 “One of the changes I’ve made is not necessarily doing a chemical health night,” said Coach Dowd, “It’s good to hear people talk but I think the message was lost.”

 Instead of the one mandatory September presentation, Dowd has organized separate team meetings during which he spoke to each fall team about chemical health. He also plans to hold similar meetings for the winter and spring teams later in the year.

 “They have the same theme, the same majority,” Dowd said, “but I can kind of tailor it to each individual group in sports.” With these individualized talks, Dowd has a better chance of connecting with the athletes.

 Mr. Dowd talked to athletic directors from other schools in his formation of the new chemical health strategy. ¨Some were doing a big chemical health night, some were having it three times a year,¨ said Mr. Dowd. While Dowd´s separate talks require more time and effort on his part than the single event, “it’s something I’m happy to do,¨ Dowd said.

 Additionally, Mr. Dowd has coined the term “Seventh Period” to make the topic of teen drinking easier to discuss and understand. In a student athlete’s life, periods one through five are the five school days. Period six is their sport. “You need to pass Period Seven, which is going out on Friday and Saturday night and doing the right things,” Dowd said, “That’s kind of the motto that we’ve adopted for this year.”

 To kickstart his Seventh Period concept, Mr. Dowd organized members of the football team to explain the concept in a commercial for the morning news. Dowd also plans to meet with the captains of each sport once a month to strengthen his relationship with the teams. During the first meeting on September 29, the group discussed how to distance themselves from the Confederate flag. The next meeting on October 13 will center around how to increase school spirit.

Overall, this year’s athletic department and sports teams will have much greater communication to close the gap between adults and athletes. “The next step is to continue to talk about it, to reach out to people,” said Dowd.