Contact: Geoff Kimmerly
517.332.5046 or [email protected]
EAST LANSING, Mich. – March 22 – Over the last 22 seasons, St. Ignace girls basketball coach Dorene Ingalls has built one of the most respected high school athletic programs in Michigan and become one of the most successful coaches in Michigan High School Athletic Association history, while also serving as one of the state’s most impactful advocates for her sport. To celebrate her many and continuing contributions, Ingalls has been named the 34th recipient of the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Award.
Each year, the Representative Council considers the achievements of women coaches, officials and athletic administrators affiliated with the MHSAA who show exemplary leadership capabilities and positive contributions to athletics.
Through the end of this regular season, Ingalls has led the St. Ignace girls basketball varsity to a 464-80 record since taking over the program prior to the 1999 season. Her wins are the 18th-most among girls basketball coaches in MHSAA history, and she has led teams to five Finals championships and four runner-up finishes – or a championship game berth to conclude nearly half of those seasons as head coach. Her teams have reached at least the MHSAA Semifinals 11 times, and won 16 conference, 18 District and 14 Regional championships.
Ingalls also has served 20 years as a board member for the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM), including a three-year term as part of the executive board serving as president-elect, president and past president, and she continues to serve as chairperson of the Miss Basketball Award committee. Additionally, she has served on the MHSAA Basketball Committee.
“Dorene is someone who has been passionate for years about providing opportunities for young women,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “That's easily seen in the work she's put in not just with her program but as a strong voice of leadership for the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. She's been one of the strongest advocates for girls basketball in our state over the last 20 years.”
Ingalls was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 and received the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s Treasure Award in 2017 – in addition to various Coach of the Year awards both for the Upper Peninsula and statewide over the years. She was named the Prep Person of the Year by the Detroit Free Press in 2011 and received BCAM's Tom Hursey Distinguished Service Award in 2018.
Ingalls has provided two decades of experiences on and off the court her Saints will never forget. Those off the court have meant just as much.
Like many families, cancer has impacted the Ingalls – both she and her husband Doug lost their mothers to the disease when those women were only in their 50s. St. Ignace’s trips to East Lansing, or Grand Rapids to play at Calvin College, or last year to Detroit to play in the Motor City Roundball Classic, included trips to medical facilities. The Grand Rapids center was where Ingalls went through rehabilitation after suffering paralysis during childbirth in 2005; she remains partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.
In 2009, Ingalls hatched the now-annual Hooping for a Cure basketball game that raised a record $35,000 in 2020, and more than $25,000 this season despite attendance restrictions. That brought the total to more than $245,000 – funds that at first were donated to the oncology department at Mackinac Straits Hospital in part for the purchase of specialized examining tables and chemotherapy treatment infusion recliners. Once the equipment needs were met and a new hospital – Mackinac Straits Health System – was built, the money went into a No Cancer Patient Left Behind fund that provides financial support for patients who have to travel outside of the area for further treatment.
“To have the confidence to overcome when people say you can’t do something,” Ingalls said, boiling down what she’s hoped to pass on to her athletes over the last two decades. “We still always are like the ‘Hoosiers’ coming down (to a state championship game) – we go with that flow a little bit. We’re not going under the radar too often, but usually we don’t have as many DI (college) people as the teams we play. We try to make sure (our athletes learn) that hard work, dedication, positive attitude and don’t ever give up, fight through your adversities and just keep going, keep going, keep going.
“I get letters from kids that went to boot camp that said, ‘Oh my gosh, the only way I survived this is because of our practices and our tryouts. All these other kids are stopping, and I keep going.’ … Other ones go on to be doctors and nurses in the field. That’s what it’s all about, when kids are fighting through stuff. If they have all-nighters, they can figure that out and they know they have that inner strength they haven’t tapped into yet, that willingness to keep going. I think that’s what high school sports are about – teaching them the skills they need in life, to fight through things, that you’re capable of more, you just have to sometimes dig deep, shake it off and step it on up.”
Ingalls is a 1986 graduate of New Baltimore Anchor Bay High School, where she played basketball, volleyball and softball. She attended Lake Superior State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1991, and she then moved to St. Ignace to begin six years as a geologist before starting a screen printing and embroidery business.
She had earned 10 letters playing four sports at LSSU – volleyball, basketball, softball and tennis – and soon after moving to St. Ignace she joined the Saints’ coaching ranks, first as a junior high and assistant junior varsity basketball coach in 1992-93, then junior varsity girls head coach from 1994-98 until she took over the varsity position. She also has coached softball and subvarsity boys basketball.
Ingalls and husband Doug have two sons, Jackson and Jonathan. For an expanded feature on Dorene Ingalls, please visit the MHSAA Second Half Website at https://secondhalf.mhsaa.com/.
The first Women In Sports Leadership Award was presented in 1990. Past recipients are:
1990 – Carol Seavoy, L’Anse
1991 – Diane Laffey, Harper Woods
1992 – Patricia Ashby, Scotts
1993 – Jo Lake, Grosse Pointe
1994 – Brenda Gatlin, Detroit
1995 – Jane Bennett, Ann Arbor
1996 – Cheryl Amos-Helmicki, Huntington Woods
1997 – Delores L. Elswick, Detroit
1998 – Karen S. Leinaar, Delton
1999 – Kathy McGee, Flint
2000 – Pat Richardson, Grass Lake
2001 – Suzanne Martin, East Lansing
2002 – Susan Barthold, Kentwood
2003 – Nancy Clark, Flint
2004 – Kathy Vruggink Westdorp, Grand Rapids
2005 – Barbara Redding, Capac
2006 – Melanie Miller, Lansing
2007 – Jan Sander, Warren Woods
2008 – Jane Bos, Grand Rapids
2009 – Gail Ganakas, Flint; Deb VanKuiken, Holly
2010 – Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2011 – Ellen Pugh, West Branch; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2012 – Janet Gillette, Comstock Park
2013 – Barbara Beckett, Traverse City
2014 – Teri Reyburn, DeWitt
2015 – Jean LaClair, Bronson
2016 – Betty Wroubel, Pontiac
2017 – Dottie Davis, Ann Arbor
2018 – Meg Seng, Ann Arbor
2019 – Kris Isom, Adrian
2020 – Nikki Norris, East Lansing
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.