Don Morrow had heard rumors that some of the players on his football team at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa were experimenting with drugs.
Mira Costa is no different from any other high school in that regard, but Morrow and Tana Hausch, president of the school's football booster club, decided to take action.
Earlier this summer, Mira Costa unveiled a voluntary drug testing program for the football team. Players and parents were given a choice to sign agreements that would allow random testing. About 96% of the 150 varsity, junior varsity and freshman-sophomore players consented.
The test, manufactured by Rapid Drug Testing Services, Inc., is the same one used by many employers throughout the country. It tests for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines (Ecstasy), amphetamines and opiates. Each testing kit costs about $12.
"There is so much talk about who is doing this and who is doing that," Morrow said. "Obviously this goes on in high school, but we figured that if anything, it would give our players an excuse not to do it."
School employees are not involved with administering the tests. The players give urine samples at a nearby church, where volunteer nurses read the results.
Test results are passed to the players' parents. The coaching staff does not get access, and there are no team-related penalties for positive results.
Hausch, whose son, Andy Oldfield, is a starting offensive lineman for Mira Costa, spearheaded the effort. The booster club picks up most of the cost through donations. She said random testing not only discourages players from doing drugs, but also prepares them for the future.
"If they want to play in college, they're going to be tested," Hausch said. "If they want to get a job, almost every employer does drug testing now. It's a part of life. But one group that has always been missed is high school kids, and that's the group that probably needs it the most. I hope we can start a trend of testing kids in high school."
At first the players were hesitant, but after several team meetings, they decided to unite behind the testing.
"People have complaints about it," said team captain Brian Jackson, a senior tight end and linebacker. "But coach said this is what we're going to do and he thought it would be pretty cool if the entire team did it. So it's a team effort. Our team bonded through this. From what I've heard, some people have stopped [drug use] completely."
Many expected Mira Costa, a Southern Section Division III finalist last year, to tail off this season after losing 15 starters to graduation, but the Mustangs are 4-0 heading into their game at Hawthorne on Friday night.
Hausch said the results on the field, however, are only a fringe benefit.
"That little $12 kit," she said, "is a great baby-sitter."