Welcome back to Phil for the Game, your glimpse into the sports community of Boone County.

While putting a story together about the Scott High Soccer team (see this edition) I stumbled upon a move by Head Coach Zach Boyd and assistant coach Rodney Miller that I’d like to applaud.

The coaches collectively agreed to use team funds to purchase an automated external defibrillator (AED) that will belong to the team, travel with the team and become part of the program’s standard equipment.

Last season, Roane County wide receiver Alex Miller died after collapsing on the sideline of the Sept. 13 road game against Clay County. Miller’s death prompted an outpouring of support and awareness across West Virginia.

Assistant Coach Rodney Miller, who also serves as a West Virginia Delegate and represents Boone County, was a strong advocate for House Bill 4497.

The bill, in memory of Alex Miller, is referred to as “The Alex Miller Law.”

Per the language of the bill, “The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission shall require that an automated external defibrillator device be present during the duration of all extramural high school or middle school athletic events under the control, supervision and regulation of the commission, and that all school sports personnel be trained in the use of the device.”

The bill took effect on June 5 after passing 100-0 in the House and 34-0 in the Senate. It will require WVSSAC sanctioned sports to have access to the devices and it will ultimately be the responsibility of the school system to provide them. Multiple sports across multiple seasons (spring, fall, etc.) will share the AEDs and the language of the requirements will be handed down from the WVSSAC for sports beginning in 2021.

“We had one for a while and we carried it with us just like a first-aid kit and they weren’t required and in limited supply,” said Miller. “I called Zach from the house floor and I told him I believe in this and he did, too. We used money that the kids worked for and the parents fundraised and we bought our own. We’ve bought our own. We didn’t wait on the school system, the school or the county to do it.”

Miller added that the machine will be on-site for practices, both home and away games and basically anywhere that the Scott High boys soccer team is in motion.

Coach Miller added that Director Bryan Justice has offered training for coaches and staff and the boys on the machine from Boone County Ambulance Authority personnel.

“It is that sense of community and commitment from our local agencies that I’m really proud of,” Miller added.

The cost of the machine rang in at about $700 for the team, but the coaching staff said that it might be the best money they spend in 2020.

“It is nothing against the school or the school system,” the Delegate and Coach added. “We just wanted to get out in front of this quickly and be proactive. We can maintain and protect this ourselves and when these young men are out there and playing and something happens, we’ll be prepared now.”

Currently, there are 298 middle and high schools in West Virginia, and the SSAC has purchased and placed AEDs at 191. The goal is to see access at all of the schools, which may also come in the form of donated AEDs.

Unfortunately, sometimes a tragedy happens but it positively spurs awareness and action. I believe this to be a wonderful tribute to Alex Miller and often good moves like this fly under the radar of the community.

I hope that more coaches across the state without AEDs take a cue from the Skyhawks and choose to be proactive in this way.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.