2017-05-19 / Sports

Cooper the courageous

BOYS’ TENNIS /// Moorpark Musketeers Moorpark boys’ tennis player has bounced back from two traumatic brain injuries
Jonathan Andrade
@J_ Andrade_ on Twitter


MIGHTY MUSKETEER—Cooper Davis is a freshman tennis player at Moorpark High who survived two traumatic brain injuries in middle school, once while riding a BMX bike and the other while playing hockey. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers MIGHTY MUSKETEER—Cooper Davis is a freshman tennis player at Moorpark High who survived two traumatic brain injuries in middle school, once while riding a BMX bike and the other while playing hockey. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Brian Friefeld, a Moorpark High psychology teacher, has met thousands of students throughout his 22 years instructing youngsters.

While kids have come and gone, Friefeld said, a select few leave a lasting impression.

Cooper Davis is one of those special kids.

Friefeld, a second-year head coach for the Musketeer boys’ tennis team, met Davis, a freshman, when the 5-foot-3 novice joined the squad earlier this year.

Davis was undersized, inexperienced and unpolished on the court, but he’s wise beyond his 15 years.

Two traumatic brain injuries have forced Davis to grow up quickly.

“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Friefeld said. “(Davis) has a real acute appreciation of the gift that life is.”


READY—Moorpark’s Cooper Davis serves against Royal on April 27. READY—Moorpark’s Cooper Davis serves against Royal on April 27. The psychology teacher said the young Musketeer has experienced post-traumatic growth, a positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.

Davis treasures his health after withstanding two stints in the hospital between October 2014 and May 2015.

Davis, an avid mountain bike rider who used to race BMX, was hitting dirt jumps on his Fit Bike Co. BMX bike behind Miller Park in Moorpark with friends Cole Myerly and Tanner Rauschenberger on Oct. 28, 2014.

“We’d go down there a lot,” Rauschenberger said. “There’s this big jump that’s kind of sketchy. Nobody really wanted to do it, except for him. (Myerly) and I just watched him.”


THAT’S THE SPIRIT—Moorpark’s Cooper Davis gets set to shake hands with teammate Conner Gilpatrick during an April 27 match against Royal. THAT’S THE SPIRIT—Moorpark’s Cooper Davis gets set to shake hands with teammate Conner Gilpatrick during an April 27 match against Royal. The courageous Davis overshot the gap. His front wheel dug into the dirt, and Davis flipped over the handlebars.

“He smashed his face into the ground,” Rauschenberger said of Davis, who was wearing a helmet at the time. “We just went over to him to see if he was OK. He got knocked out, so we knew immediately that we had to call 911.”

It took an ambulance between 20 and 30 minutes to arrive.

“It felt longer than it actually was,” Rauschenberger said.

Davis was airlifted to the hospital.

The impact caused a diffuse axonal injury, which caused extreme swelling in Davis' skull. Doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles had to perform emergency brain surgery.

They removed a piece of Davis’ skull to ease the pressure. Davis spent two weeks in a coma hooked up to a ventilator.

“I remember waking up and being told I could never play another contact sport,” he said.

Three weeks later, he returned so doctors could reinsert the piece of his skull, which, he said, had been stored in a freezer. He also endured two months of rehab before returning to class at Mesa Verde Middle School.

Rauschenberger, who has known Davis since they were kindergartners at Peach Hill Academy, said it felt like Davis missed more class than he attended in seventh grade.

The extended time away from the classroom made Davis’ return that much more special, but the jubilation didn’t last long.

Davis was hospitalized again when his head started hurting while playing hockey on the California Golden Bears Youth Hockey team in May 2015.

Doctors diagnosed Davis with a subdural hematoma. He spent 10 more days in the hospital.

Against all odds, Davis was back at full strength the summer before he entered high school.

His days of being a daredevil were over. But he still rides mountain bikes—with a helmet, of course.

He still wanted to join a team at Moorpark, but all contact sports were out. He weighed his options—he briefly considered golf—and decided to try out for the tennis team.

“I started playing golf, but it didn’t compare to hockey,” he said. “I wanted a more high-intensity game. Tennis is fun. It’s more for me.”

Davis adapted to the sport quickly. He earned a spot in the varsity lineup before Coastal Canyon League action started.

“The learning curve was steep,” Friefeld said. “I kept telling him he’d take his lumps this year, but he’ll be giving out the lumps in the future.”’

Davis and fellow freshman Conner Gilpatrick stepped in to fill open spots in singles for Moorpark. The rookies also played doubles together.

“For the most part, they were in over their head, but they kept on battling,” the coach said.

Davis faced talented athletes during the season, including many year-round players who compete in USTA tournaments on weekends.

“They did what they could and they always competed,” the coach said of Davis and Gilpatrick. “That’s all I asked of them.”

As the season progressed, Davis started to flourish in his new sport.

“It goes to show what a terrific athlete he is,” Friefeld said. “He’s gotten better right in front of our eyes. If he wants to, he can become a successful varsity player.”

Davis, the son of Newbury Park High graduates Mike and Anne Davis, said he’s found his home on the tennis court. He’s always quoting “Caddyshack” and laughing with teammates.

“I just hope to keep playing throughout high school and get better,” he said. “We’ll see where it takes me.”

The Musketeer has three years to fine-tune his skills on the court.

Davis has already left a lasting impression at Moorpark.

“A few (students) just stand out to where you feel privileged that they became a part of your life,” Friefeld said.

“Some resonate—and Cooper certainly will with me.”

Email Jonathan Andrade at jandrade@theacorn.com.

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