Coaches and physical education teachers in Lafayette Parish gathered Thursday to learn skills that could mean the difference between life and death.

Our Lady of Lourdes hosted an all-day session at David Thibodaux STEM Academy to teach CPR and other life-saving techniques in preparation for the upcoming school year.

“The more people we can educate and train in CPR and to keep our kids safe and healthy, the better everyone is,” said Patty Guidroz, an Our Lady of Lourdes clinical educator. “We’ll have less deaths related to sudden cardiac events.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death for young athletes, according to the Southwest Athletic Trainers’ Association, and it’s estimated that more than 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching a hospital.

“This is my 51st year (coaching) and I can tell you right now that the CPR program has changed so much every 10 years, and it’s getting to the point where it’s really fine-tuning the procedure and it’s excellent,” said Gayle Montalvo, who coaches the girls varsity basketball team at Northside High School.

She added, “You can now go to a victim and no matter how close they are to final curtain call, you can bring them back because of the fact that this procedure they’re now teaching us is immediate.”

While Thursday’s lessons focused mainly on CPR recertification and training in the use of automated external defibrillators, on Friday, several orthopedic surgeons are scheduled to talk to the group about sports-related injuries.

Our Lady of Lourdes provided instructors, training supplies, guest speakers and snacks and beverages for the coaches and teachers as a part of a partnership with Lafayette Parish School System that has flourished for three years.

Coaches and teachers must be recertified in CPR every two years.

Last year, the program focused on getting coaches and teachers certified in first-aid training, which will be renewed at next summer’s seminar.