Finding his place

Tyler Sloan, right, talks to his dad, head coach Gary Sloan, during a break in practice Wednesday in Grand Meadow. Even though a string of concussions has taken Tyler off the playing field, he still is a major part of the team.

Tyler Sloan, right, talks to his dad, head coach Gary Sloan, during a break in practice Wednesday in Grand Meadow. Even though a string of concussions has taken Tyler off the playing field, he still is a major part of the team.

GRAND MEADOW — Tyler Sloan’s first concussion during a football game was hard to miss since it came on a big hit.

Tyler’s second, third and fourth concussions weren’t so obvious.

“We don’t even know when they happened,” Tyler said. “I remember the last game perfectly. It was a fun game in Glenville, and I played most of the game on offense. It wasn’t one play where I would feel the concussion. It was just after the game I’d get all the symptoms and it was like, ‘Here we go again.’ I knew what was going on.”

The Grand Meadow senior had to make a big decision when he was 15, but that choice has helped him get a jump start on what he hopes to do as a career someday. Tyler gave up football after his sophomore season due to a rash of concussions, and he’s taken on a coaching role with the Superlarks over the past two seasons as GM won its first two state championships in school history.

ah.12.11.aTyler is the son of GM head football coach Gary Sloan, but his dad allowed him to make the big decision of ending his playing career on his own.

“He made a very mature decision, and it’s hard for a teenage kid to make a decision like that,” Gary said. “It was the right one for him and I think a lot of other kids could learn from him. It was a decision I fully supported, and I’m glad he made it on his own without me having to make it for him. It’s a decision that was the right one for him, but it’s been hard on him too. He very much misses not being able to play.”

Tyler didn’t take the decision to give up football lightly, but he believes it was the best thing to do as he felt the effects of concussions piling up.

After his first concussion, Tyler began to recognize the symptoms that came with sustaining a concussion. He described it as being very sensitive to everything around.

“You have sensitivity to everything you can imagine: lights, sounds, people looking at you the wrong way,” Tyler said.

“You’re tired all of the time and your drowsy. After you’ve had it, you know you’ve got it,” he added.

Tyler said he passed the concussion protocol test on his first few concussions, but on his final one he wasn’t able to pass the test. Tyler was cleared to play football by a specialist, but he was told his condition could get worse in the short term and long term if he kept sustaining concussions.

“They said it was going to keep getting worse,” Tyler said. “The more I got, it could get more long term and it could get worse for years to come. You don’t want to think about that.”

Tyler still plays golf but walked away from playing football and basketball. But there was no way he was walking away from football altogether.

If he was still a player, Tyler would be playing a big role on the field as the top ranked Superlarks pursue their third straight Class Nine Man state football title. Instead, he’s playing a big role for the team on the sideline, just like he has for the past two seasons.

Grand Meadow’s Tyler Sloan takes part in a team huddle during practice Wednesday in Grand Meadow. A string of concussions has sidelined Sloan from playing, but it hasn’t kept him from being involved with the team. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Grand Meadow’s Tyler Sloan takes part in a team huddle during practice Wednesday in Grand Meadow. A string of concussions has sidelined Sloan from playing, but it hasn’t kept him from being involved with the team. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Tyler has immersed himself fully into preparing the Larks for games, and he wrote seven of the eight scouting reports for GM this season. He’s also helped work with the scout team in practice, and he’s quick to give his dad and his fellow classmates football advice when the time is right.

GM senior quarterback Michael Stejskal remembers when Tyler was quarterback in middle school, and he said Tyler’s presence is a solid one for the Larks this season.

“He’s got a good arm [on the scout team] and he knows the plays,” Stejskal said. “He does a good scouting report and he knows what the other team does. He knows a lot, and I think he’s a positive force on the team.”

Tyler has been able to call plays for the Superlarks in their blowout wins in the past, and he spends as much time watching film of GM’s opponents as just about anyone affiliated with the team.

Gary said GM’s older players respect what Tyler does for the squad, and so does the coaching staff.

Tyler Sloan drops back to throw while working with Grand Meadow’s scout team as the Superlarks prepared for Spring Grove Wednesday night.

Tyler Sloan drops back to throw while working with Grand Meadow’s scout team as the Superlarks prepared for Spring Grove Wednesday night.

“I think he’s a big part of the team,” Gary said. “Tyler does a great job. He’s going to go to college next year and he wants to go into elementary education and coaching. I think he’s going to be a very good teacher and a very good coach. He’s real good with young kids, and he really understands the game. Tyler probably watches more film than I do.”

Tyler may have missed out on playing for the Larks as they won back-to-back state titles over the past two seasons, but he hasn’t missed being part of the team. He couldn’t picture himself being anywhere other than the sideline over the past couple of years.

“When we get to big games, it’s fun to be involved and to be on the field,” Tyler said. “I went to one of my cousin’s games once and sitting in the stands killed me. Being involved and being in that atmosphere is awesome.”

Tyler is hoping to coach football after high school. He’s had an early advantage of learning from a successful GM coaching staff.

“My dad showed me everything,” Tyler said. “Every single thing I know is from him and the other coaches. It’s nice to learn from them and go off of what they do. I’d love to coach. If I could go bigger than high school that would be awesome. That would be a dream. Obviously not many people get a chance to do that, but if you love doing something you might as well try and go bigger.”

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