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OEC students apply classroom skills to real life injuries on USA CUP medical team

07/19/2017, 7:15pm CDT
By Patrick Malin, Media Intern

Every year at Schwan’s USA CUP, player safety remains the number one priority. High school students from the Opportunities in Emergency Health Care (OEC) program play a vital role in ensuring that USA CUP participants receive necessary medical care on a moment’s notice.


Bill Neiss is the director of OEC programming at Spring Lake Park High School and has been volunteering at USA CUP since 1986.

Bill Neiss has been volunteering at USA CUP since 1986, and now serves as the director and instructor of OEC for Spring Lake Park High School in Spring Lake Park, Minn.

“We start with first aid, and that’s for 9th through 12th graders. We also offer nurse assistant courses, that’s eligible for students who are in 10th grade and up,” Neiss said. “Most of the students out here for this tournament have taken the Emergency Medical Responder course and the EMT course as juniors and seniors.”

Katherine Larson is a recent Spring Lake Park graduate who has worked every day so far at USA CUP. Larson enjoys OEC’s balance of informational class work with practical, hands-on medical training.

“I am a Fire Explorer and the (OEC representatives) came and talked to us a few times. I kept hearing about it, I was really interested in it, and finally I signed up for a few classes and I’ve loved it ever since,” Larson said. “Sometimes we’ll have a couple PowerPoints, then you switch over to the next room and it’s a lot of hands-on stuff. It’s a mix. We learn how to actually do stuff, we get to learn how to splint.”

Local Minnesota OEC programs from Osseo, Chaska, and Spring Lake Park have a long-standing relationship with the National Sports Center (NSC), which provides excellent experience to these aspiring medical personnel.

“We hope they gain hands-on experience. You’re not hoping people get hurt, but that’s why we’re here when it does happen,” Neiss said. “They get to do an assessment, and maybe if there is a treatment, a splint or whatever, sometimes it’s just hand them an ice pack, sometimes it’s putting a patient on a back board.”

“We run them through lots of scenarios over the course of the year, but when it’s a real patient, it’s just a whole different level. Just from how you introduce yourself to what questions you ask, all that is a little more profound, even if the injury isn’t serious, for them it’s the real thing.”

For high school students like Larson, USA CUP is a perfect opportunity to put the skills they learn through OEC to the test.

“It’s definitely a different feeling, you can only do so much in a class room,” she said. “Actually seeing swelling and being able to actually splint it, it’s cool. It’s a whole different experience.”


Katherine Larson is a recent high school graduate and OEC student working medical stand-by at her first USA CUP this summer.

OEC students frequently rave about their experience at USA CUP, and many return for subsequent years to continue to provide their services to injured USA CUP participants.

“The kids that we get out here they come back, Neiss said. “Three years ago we had five total, now we have at least eight or nine per shift. They sign up and see how cool it is. Early on in the program, we were hauling them on stretchers to a tent that was hotter than being outside. Just to see what it’s become is really incredible. We’ve focused on courses that a kid can walk away with a certification.”

“I love it. I’ve been here every day so far, all day. I’ve loved it, it’s great,” said first time USA CUP volunteer Larson. “I’m doing medical standby, so if anybody gets hurt, it’s my job to jump in and help. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people from a lot of different countries.”

Larson will go to school for nursing in the fall after completing her EMT test in the coming months.

Not only are the OEC students passionate about what they do, they are also the best in the nation at their jobs. EMTs from OEC programs in Minnesota have won back to back International Rescue and Emergency Care Association Youth Competitions honoring the top EMTs across the country.

The NSC and other local sporting venues act as a hub for the development of OEC students, where volunteers are able to gain real medical experience nearly every weekend.

“Just here alone we work the NSC Cup over Memorial Day weekend, and we do the (All-American Cup) in June. We’ve done rugby when they had the NCAA Division I tournament here, we’ve done ultimate frisbee here. We also do hockey up at Fogerty Ice Arena, we do basketball tournaments, we do the Twin Cities Marathon,” Neiss said.

OEC emphasizes learning by doing, an approach that has been wildly successful for Neiss and his students.

“The goal is train them, now go apply it,” Neiss said. 

Tag(s): July 19, 2017