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Title: April Arvan Interview: Basketball and Multiple Sclerosis
Project: Lakeland Oral History Project
Interviewee: April Arvan
Interviewer: Brenda Paulson
Interview location and date: Lakeland College Chase Room 110, Sheboygan, Wisconsin on March 11, 2008
Length of interview: 24:06 minutes and 17 pages
Name Index: Arvan, April; Bouche, Jane; Kivanc, Devrion; Paulson, Brenda; Remington, Stacey; Sugimoto, Daisuke; Tinkle, Terry
Abstract: This is an interview with former head coach of the Lakeland women's basketball team, April Arvan. The interview focuses on Arvan's career as a coach and her experiences dealing with Multiple Sclerosis.
The transcript of this interview has been edited for easier reading. All verbal hesitations, stutters and false starts have been deleted. Certain questions and answers unrelated to the focus of this interview have also been edited out.
Brenda Paulson: Okay, I am sitting here with April Arvan on March 11, 2008 in Chase room 110. When did you start playing [basketball]?
Arvan: Oh my goodness! I was in 5th grade, so gosh, many many many years ago.
Paulson: Many many many years ago.
Paulson: What made you want to start [playing basketball]?
Arvan: My grandma!
Paulson: Your grandma did.
Arvan: Yeah, she encouraged me to; well she encouraged the school I was at to create a program to play. So she encouraged me to get involved, not just in basketball but other things, but basketball was kind of the one [sport] that stuck. [Smiles]
Paulson: And then you just fell in love with basketball and you kept going from there?
Arvan: Definitely, definitely
Paulson: Cool! So what high school did you go to?
Arvan: Heartland Arrowhead.
Paulson: Heartland Arrowhead. Where is that?
Paulson: What made you decide to come play at Lakeland [College]?
Arvan: Oh, I went to a junior college after my high school experience and it was time for me to move on from junior college and I was recruited by Lakeland right outside of high school. I visited the place and fell in love with it. The coach at that time was named Terry Tinkle [smiles]. But then he had left right about a month before I came, and Coach Bouche [Jane] had taken over at that time. . . . So, it was kind of a transition period. I thought of maybe not coming to Lakeland after he had left, but through discussing things with my folks and so on, we decided to give it a go, and it pretty much stuck since and that was in, gosh, 89'!
Paulson: So then, why didn't you choose to go to a four-year college right out of high school?
Arvan: [sighs]... I have given consideration. Probably my top choice at that time was Point [Stevens Point in Wisconsin] or UW Waukesha. . . . I'm very tight with my little brother, and at that time he was ... 10. So, I decided to stay closer to home and go to the UW Waukesha, which turns out to be a pretty good choice. I academically didn't do quite as well. [laughs] I Wish I would of gone out right away because the first semester I still kind of treated it like a high school. But, then I learned my lesson the hard way my first semester and kind of cracked at it, but mainly because of family reasons.
Paulson: Yeah! Was it difficult to go from a junior college to a four year?
Arvan: Mm...mmm...no [shakes her head].
Paulson: So your transition went pretty good?
Arvan: Yeah... it was fine. It was fine, I was more mature actually doing it that way then I think if I would of came right out of high school. I don't know... It probably was a good idea that I went to a junior college. However, I didn't like the experience of having two years to play at Waukesha and then two years to play at Lakeland. I would of rather of had four years continuity.
Paulson: What made you decide to become a coach?
Arvan: Oh my! [sighs] I didn't decide actually! . . . I got my undergrad in secondary education and broad field social sciences. So I doubled majored and then minored in psychology and coaching. [Clears throat] And then I had the opportunity to stay at Lakeland and be the assistant coach and kind of get like a GA [Graduated Assistant] thing, although we didn't have GA's back then. . . . But, I did get education free! . . . So I took advantage of that and got my master's degree here and then Coach Bouche [Jane] one day took me out golfing and said that she was stepping down as head coach for basketball and I had already assisted for three years. . . And she then said that they would like to elevate me to head coach and I actually told her no. . . That wasn't really in my career plan. I planned on still teaching at the high school level and didn't have coaching in my mind at all. . . And then I went home and talked to my folks about it. We went to dinner, we talked about it a little and I thought, well maybe I will give it a try... and then.. my thirteen years went by.
Paulson: That's cool though that they just, after three years of assisting, that they would want to give you the job right away.
Arvan: I was only 26 at that time, so I was relatively young and very inexperienced.
Paulson: Was that hard, transferring from the assistant coach to the head coach? To have the whole thing in your hands?
Arvan Yeah, it was challenging and certain aspects just being young. I still was the age of ... very close to the age of some of those players [eyebrows raised]. Remie, I came close to... we were kind of close in age because she had taken some time off and then came back.
Paulson: Okay. That might have been kind of challenging to play with them [players] and then all of a sudden be their head coach.
Arvan: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But I had one of my assistants that first year... he assisted me the first two years of my career and his name was Devrion Kivanc, and he was from Istanbul, Turkey, with a boat load of coaching experience and it just happened that he fell right in Lakeland's lap [by] working a camp over the summer time. He said you know I'd like to stay here and I'm like, "let me see what we can do ... and then bam."
Paulson: He got the assistant coaching job?
Arvan: Exactly! He was able to work that out and he got housing and a couple of classes.
Paulson: How long did he get to stay for?
Arvan: He was here for my first year 95'... 94'-95' and 95'-96' he helped us to our first championship.
Paulson: That's cool. Yeah you have an impressive record that I found.
Arvan: Yeah, it was alright. [little smile]
Paulson: So what was one of your proudest moments in coaching? Out of your thirteen years?
Arvan: I would say out of all those... I think every alum that graduated. Watching that and going through the graduation ceremony, I think with my alum... those are the proudest moments for sure, for sure.
Paulson: Anything exciting... like games or anything that just sticks in your head?
Arvan: Some of them weren't even championship years. I think we had finished in second... ahh... the year after we finished in second I think we were picked fourth or fifth and we were playing the last game against a very good team that won the title... they just smashed everybody and we played them at home to try to win the championship. We lost, but it was a very exciting game and we were... ahhh.. our leading scorer was a freshman and she averaged nine points, seven points a game and I don't know why I remember that maybe because it was so weird... because we had no double digit scorers. We did the years before, it was just that particular year we were very low on talent but very high on chemistry.
Paulson: That's very good! What were some of the worst [memories]?
Arvan: AHHH [big sigh] ... My third year in coaching one of our players died...[pauses]... you know... that was horrible. Actually that was the year that we finished in second and we were ... Just not that good talent wise but really had to overcome stuff. . . . That, by far, is probably the most difficult thing. . . to lose a player the way we lost that player I think was... a put me in a pretty bad funk for a while actually.
Paulson: With having MS... Multiple Sclerosis, has that put a damper on a lot of things? Like with coaching because you have had it for how many years?
Arvan: Ahh, I was diagnosed in 99' so golly it's going to be a decade soon... holy cow huh?
Arvan: So... ahhh... actually it's MS awareness week [points to her wrist band representing MS].
Arvan: You know as athletes we are trained to push though. You know and you had to do that how many times with how many different injuries and people coming off of ACL's and backs and all that stuff, so were trained to [pauses] push through and it's going to be okay and don't worry about it and put it on the back burner. Don't see the trainer and don't deal with it and don't see a doctor.
Paulson: Get through it!
Arvan: Yeah! It's kind of in our mindset I think... or at least that was mine.
Paulson: Mine too! You don't want to be taken out!
Arvan: Exactly! So it's just like that, I think. So ummm... my MRI's since I've been diagnosed have not been favorable and I understand the progression of the disease and I understand what happens. And coaching, the unfortunate thing is the stress and the fatigue. Those two things with this particular disease... they just don't help. Ummm... I didn't anticipate it having an effect until last season. I don't anticipate it at all... ummm.. being a problem because...what I appear or what I think to be my strengths... I didn't anticipate it to be a problem until last year, where I thought oh this is a problem.
Paulson: And it was basically the fatigue?
Arvan: It was last year... the inability to stand. Fatigue wasn't too bad, I mean I ahhh... happen as frequent but the inability to be mobile and the inability to stand. I mean I would have to sit in practice, I couldn't stand in games, and I could hardly communicate. I'd be sitting you know during our pre-game talk.
Arvan: So... I remember walking into my office or down the hallway to get to the offices and just hanging onto the wall trying to get in [pounds on the table].
Arvan: And that's when I thought that this is a problem, and I even thought of taking a leave of absence. I thought that would maybe be the deal, but ... I am hardly a victim of it you know. You just kind of get through and you deal with it with your doctor and we decided to not to do anything which I think in retrospect I wish I would of got. Gotten on to like a couple of high doses of medication that they game me right before the Marian game actually.
Paulson: Oh! The overtime game!
Arvan: Yes, yes [laughing] I was feeling pretty good that day.
Paulson: I bet! Like when you... when those symptoms hit... like obviously earlier when you first found out they weren't as strong as they are now .. right? Or are they consistent, staying on the same line?
Arvan: Yeah, like right now I feel completely fine besides my left hand gives me problems... like right now it's my left hand. [makes hand into fist and releases] Ummmm... Last season for those four months was not good. Not good and then before that it started with my vision. Which my vision will give me problems every once in a while, it just comes and goes. It's amazing thing that like tomorrow I could go right back to where I was last season... you just never know. Or, the next three years I might just be dealing with this left hand issue. Or this might go away and I never have anything to deal with again. So, it's a very unpredictable situation.
Paulson: Do they say it gets worse as time goes on?
Arvan: It's a progressive disease.
Paulson: So you will experience more symptoms in life?
Paulson: But hopefully not!
Arvan: Ahhh.. yeah, I just don't think, I don't think I will for some reason. I mean I'm on my medication... that seems to be doing pretty good. My MRI's haven't been like I said haven't been favorable. But that's just ...
Paulson: How many do you have to do [MRI's]?
Arvan: I used to do two a year... last fall I didn't, but I think I was rebelling.
Paulson: So when those symptoms did come, did you have any of the vision or anything like that?
Arvan: The vision was earlier on in my coaching career actually.
Paulson: No, I mean how did you deal with that? I read an article about how when MS first came. And it was for your championship or it was some game where you guys were traveling. Cause I think you were reading the scouting report and then it hit.
Arvan: Yeah, that was actually a really cool weekend because we beat Calvin and they were ranked and it was a tip-off tournament and we just knocked...
Paulson: Oh, so it was here?
Arvan: It was at Point... Stevens Point. Before we hosted tournaments, so that's how long ago that was.
Paulson: So how did you deal with it?
Arvan: I just, I didn't think much of it and the time because I . . . I had split vision.
Paulson: Wasn't it hard to focus?
Arvan: It was tough, after I found out that it wasn't getting any better, we had to patch an eye, so actually I have a really cool photo of everybody coming to practice with their eye patched. [Laughs] Guess they knew what a nerd I was. But then I went to the eye doctor, ophthalmologist then the neurologist and that's when I found out.
Paulson: Oh. So like the game did ya... you just kind of did it.. just played whatever?
Arvan: It was... until I started patching my eye, I had to let my ego go a little bit. Until I started patching my eye... you know if you could just kind of imagine seeing twos [of everything]. So actually there is 10,20 people out there.. our fans doubled which was kind of nice.
Paulson: How long did you have to patch it for?
Arvan: That episode lasted almost the whole season.
Paulson: Oh, but then it never came back once you got...
Arvan: If I get tired or hot or... then it automatically [snaps fingers]... tired or hot.
Paulson: Wow. But then when you are finally cooled down or ...
Arvan: Yep, if I go into air condition immediately it will come back to. [snaps fingers] If I get rest, immediately it will come back.
Paulson: So well, what other symptoms have you experience besides hand and vision?
Arvan: Hand, vision, last year was vertigo. It's usually my left side. Like right now my foot is fine but usually it would be my whole left side.
Paulson: It would just go numb or you just can't feel it or what?
Arvan: Yeah I can't feel it, kind of numb or tingly or weakness.
Paulson: Okay, so like when you did practices or games, how did you deal with it?
Arvan: Well how did you?
Paulson: How did you adapt to it?
Arvan: How do you do it... you know... you sprain and ankle... how do you do it.. it hurts right.
Paulson: Just get up and go.
Arvan: Exactly, exactly! And it's not different and just as I never got involved in... I stayed away from your guys stuff with injuries, you know. I let Dia deal with it, and I ... until I told you all last.. I think I told you around Christmas time that I'm kind of having a hard time.
Arvan: You know that's all I'll say, you know, I'm not going to say well... besides the staff I did say to them this is a little bit more than what I'm use to with...having a problem.
Paulson: Yeah, which the staff was obviously your back bone.
Arvan: Definitely, they knew they kind of had to do different things and that's when I was considering taking a leave. But, it's the same thing, I mean it's no different than you guys really... I guess that's the way I look at it.. or maybe that's the way I think I have to look at it.. I don't know.
Paulson: Well it's a positive way to look at it.
Arvan: I guess so... it works for me. [smiles]
Paulson: Was MS one reason why you decided to step down or anything?
Arvan: [Big sigh] It's a hard question to answer because I mean, even Brenda, I told you when you were shooting in the gym that I am not going anywhere, I will not leave.
Arvan: And then three weeks later I'm telling you guys that I'm going to step... well at that time aside.
Arvan: So if I tried to reflect on the whole decision making process... if I... I mean I was still ... well I'm in my 40s now... but I was still in my 30's and anticipating that I'd coach until I retired...still. I don't know if it's my mentality not wanting to hang it on MS because I knew even then that I would probably be feeling better. I had a hard time... I had a hard time mentally feeling like I was letting the program down or letting the... ahhhh... you know the program. It never was the team or the alumni or the coaching staff or whatever it was the program which is... you know what it is. . . . And when I couldn't perform at a certain ability it was hard for me mentally to accept that. . . . [long pause and sighs] If I didn't have Multiple Sclerosis I wouldn't of gone through what I went through last year and I'd have a lot more energy and ability and all that stuff to do what I had done my first... Cause really it has been kind of kicking me in the butt that last three years, so my first ten years. And then things were happening I would have to give off different ... ummm.. tasks to different people, which I wasn't really comfortable with.
Arvan: If I didn't have MS would I still be coaching? Probably! Was it the MS that made the decision? No, only because there were so many different things that went into it. Like the opportunity with this new position. And wanting to earn my PH.D before I turned 40, having to put time into that. That was a goal just as a coach, that had nothing to do with wanting to become a full time teacher. So, I don't know. I didn't want to let the program down, that was my huge thing. . . . There is so much time and energy that goes into this thing [program] and if you're not feeling that well then that's a problem.
Paulson: Yeah. Well that's just like any other profession you know. Like if you truly love it and things are stepping in the way.
Arvan: I still can't believe that I'm not doing it... so it's still a growth process for me right now.
Paulson: Yeah. Do you see yourself coming back? [coaching basketball]
Paulson: In college, high school, in biddy ball [elementary basketball]?
Arvan: I doubt it will be here and in any capacity... and high school.. if I did go to high school I would probably go as an assistant. If I went to go to a biddy ball thing then I would probably take the little guys over [smiles].
Paulson: When do you see yourself coming back for that?
Arvan: Ahh.. I would say after I .. after I can... if I can.. if and when I earn my PH. D. I will get right back in it. I look forward to it. I almost got back into it right away this year.
Paulson: Where at?
Arvan: A high school in Sheboygan called me . . . and I honestly went back and forth for two to three weeks with it. . . It would have been fun. But yeah.. it just would have been... just a very poor choice.
Paulson: So you see yourself, like when you do finish you're PH.D and all of that... going to college? Like working at the college level instead of..?
Arvan: Ahh... I don't know because I enjoy teaching so much and this is now kind of my... I don't know. Like I can't imagine ever leaving Lakeland, it would take something... ahh like I can't even imagine because I feel like I am at the perfect place.
Arvan: So, whether its coaching, but you know how much I love teaching while I was coaching I wouldn't accept the job if I wasn't offered a teaching position. So I just can't imagine leaving Lakeland. So if I were to coach and it's not going to be here, then it would be probably be something in the area unless I went and became a Saber,and made a road trip to Marian.
Paulson: That would just... NO.. that would be illegal.
Paulson: I think you would get beat up by a lot of people. I think the alumni would come back and beat you up!
Arvan: Yeah I know [laughs] I know it. So I don't know. Who knows... God will help me.
Paulson: That's good though.
Arvan: Yeah! What about you though? Can I ask questions?
Arvan: Are you gonna get into coaching?
Paulson: I want to.
Paulson: I want to start maybe at the high school or middle school level first, and then go from there. Cause I need to learn things still about coaching, because coaching and playing are two different.. two different things.
Arvan: I think you'll be pretty good right off the bat, but you're right it is a learning experience.
Paulson: I definitely need to get learning underneath my belt before... like I don't know if I could do like you and pull off three years as assistant then become head coach and within a year win a title.
Arvan: Yeah, I don't know. I don't even know how... we just had really good players. You know I think the thing was that we were successful despite me.. you know.
Paulson: Come on now!
Arvan: You know maybe with me out of the way we could have had some final four teams or sweet sixteen teams. No we had some really good players.. holy crap [phone rings]
Paulson: You're one of them! The classic Arvan post move!
Arvan: Yeah exactly [laughs] you see why I started teaching. [both laugh]Back to top