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Start wearing purple

Any Dixon residents who have spoken ill of their high school's athletic department need to give them credit for one of the best hires the school will ever make.

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I'm going to withhold some names to protect the innocent.

I've had conversations with select Dixon coaches, during which they've half-laughed, half-lamented while discussing the state of Dixon High School sports.

Winless football seasons. Basketball seasons that almost elapse without a "W". Plummeting wrestling participation. It's all been fair game for embattled Dixonites.

But I've applauded many of the department's coaching hires. Among the best? Both hoops coaches, Jason Mead and Luke Ravlin, and football coach Dave Smith.

But I also devoted a column during my concussion series, "The Hidden Injury", to the bizarre absence of concern over the school's lack of an athletic trainer. I was told that no members of the community voiced concern over things like concussions and not having the certified personnel in place to diagnose and treat them.

In short, I was very critical of what I perceived as apathy. Wednesday was a brand new day, and it's time to give Dixon the credit it's due.

New athletic director Karen Price spearheaded the effort to restore a cooperative program that puts an athletic trainer on the sidelines. They not only got an AT. They got a very talented one. Who bleeds purple. And has a vision.

Kudos, Dixon.

Courtney Bond was an outstanding high school and college athlete, and has paid her dues to get where she is. And she calls where she is, the AT at Dixon, her dream job. She's honed her skills and has myriad philosophies on developing speed, agility and strength.

A lot of folks think ATs' sole purpose is to handle injuries, whether it be prevention, diagnosis or treatment. Bond will be a rock star in those areas. But what sets good ATs apart is how much they care about the athletes.

Enter Bond as the poster child for ATs who care about their athletes. Because of her purple blood, she's fired up to get after it. But, longer term, she wants to help grow something. Build something. Forge something.

What it's been has been...well...embarrassing. Just ask Dixon junior Matt Coffey.

"Me and my teammates are sick and tired of the criticism we get," he said Wednesday.

I was expecting him to lament us picking against the Dukes. I've gotten used to local athletes taking umbrage with us calling 'em like we see 'em.

But then Coffey's venting took a disturbing turn.

"You walk down the hallway at your own high schol, and your student body is telling you how bad you're going to get beat Friday night. Why would you want to learn in an atmosphere like that?"

I have good news, Mr. Coffey. I have a hunch Dixon is on the brink of a sports renaissance, even if it takes time. And Bond is ready to lay bricks.

"I want to be a huge part of that," Bond said Wednesday night when I threw that 50-cent term out there. "I would like to be integrated with the coaching staffs and help develop speed, agility and strength."

They've been hiring the right coaches. Now they've brought in someone who is downright in tune with the science of the human body.

Wins begin taking shape in the locker room. On the practice field. And, assuming all the Dixon coaches are as much on board with Bond as her brother, Brandon Woodward, is, she's going to help them build stronger athletes.

This is all conjecture. I haven't seen Bond in action. But I loved hearing about her vision. And Price and Co. have not only brought someone in for home football games. They've built a position for their uber-dedicated AT to travel for every gridiron battle. To be at every home soccer match, baseball game, cross country meet and even bowling meet, if no other sport is demanding her.

We as media-types aren't allowed to show subjectivity, in either direction, for or against. But I'm always on the side of kids and giving them every opportunity to succeed, no matter their nickname or colors.

Kudos again, Dixon. This move should make anyone, no matter their allegiance, stand up and cheer.

- Christopher Heimerman is the assistant sports editor at Sauk Valley Media. Email him at cheimerman@saukvalley.com or follow @CHeimerman_SVM on Twitter.

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