Title IX at 50: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 3, 2021

Elyse Finch started playing football when she was 9 years old. She came up through the community league, played junior varsity as a freshman and sophomore and joined the varsity toward the end of sophomore year on the way to moving up as a junior this fall.

So playing the “boys” sport isn’t new to her, and it’s not as rare as many still think.

True, the girls who play high school football in Michigan make up a very small percentage of the more than 32,000 participants in the sport each fall. But 138 girls played in 2020, the fifth straight season with more than 100 taking part.

And Finch’s contributions to the Royal Oak football team are providing a path forward in more ways than one.

She just completed her first season as a starting offensive guard for a Division 1 school with more than 1,500 students, in part helping to open up running lanes for her teammates carrying the ball.  

“I do feel kinda special sometimes, knowing I’m doing something that a lot of people have been reluctant to do,” she said. “I just really want to change that, change the view of how people see females in a sport like this.”

Her mom made the initial suggestion to give football a try, and Finch fell for the sport right away as she learned the game at the youth levels. The jump to high school a few years ago was similarly smooth.

Among family, Grandma was nervous – but Finch’s two older brothers also have given her tons of support.

Royal Oak footballAs soon as Elyse met her coaches, she realized how much she adored them. “They believe in my every day, and they tell me they believe in me, and that makes the sport that much better,” she said. 

Finch had grown up with some of her teammates, and “they treat me just like everybody else.”

And Finch’s other friends “haven’t seen me any other way.”

Just like any offensive guard, she loves the satisfaction of getting a good block. She loves pulling – running around the line and ahead of a play instead of blocking straight ahead – and finding that defender waiting and “just coming and blowing them up and ruining their day is just so much fun.”

But she does want people to see female football players differently – until they see everyone on the field the same.

“I feel like when people first look at me or just any girls on a football team, their first baseline thought is doubtful; they doubt her/me,” Finch said. “But then a lot of the time I or any girls on the football team, we prove them wrong.

“I want to change the view so when you first see them on the football team, you’re like, ‘Dang, she must be awesome.’ I want to change the view so that instead of starting it off being negative … the expectation is no different than for a guy.”

Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.

Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights

Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: 
Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: 
Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: 
Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: 
Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: 
Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: 
Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read

PHOTOS courtesy of Fenech Photography (top action photo) and Elyse Finch. 

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 25, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 16-19 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

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 1.3 million spectators each year.