Coach Leads with Same Drive, New Perspective

February 20, 2019

By Steve Vedder
Special for Second Half

Colleen Nagel can only shake her head when one of her former Grand Rapids Catholic Central basketball players offers an observation after dropping by a Cougars practice.

Now in her 30th year of coaching, and first season of her second stint at Catholic Central, the former Colleen Lamoreaux-Tate admits to the subtle changes that three decades on the bench have brought.

Those changes don't include the lessening of competitive fires which still burn bright or the importance of the relationships with the players or teaching of the game.

But make no mistake, there are differences – changes that have only come through self-reflection. Known as one of the most fiery coaches in Grand Rapids, Nagel still has high expectations for her teams. But time, a shuffling of personal priorities and the wisdom of age has changed Nagel, who surpassed the career 360-win total last week.

"I'll have some of my former players stop by, and they say I'm nicer," Nagel laughs. "You get older and slow down, and it's a different kind of time now. I've always said if you can't evolve with time, you need to get out."

A case in point came a couple weeks ago when the Cougars, on the verge of taking charge of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue championship race, suffered a crushing one-point loss to Coopersville after inexplicably falling behind by 23 points at the half. The team also dropped a one-point decision to West Catholic after hammering the Falcons by 30 in the teams' first meeting.

Nagel said her reaction to those losses differs from how she would have handled them during her first seven-year coaching stint at Catholic Central. During that tenure, the Cougars went 167-19, including notching arguably the greatest win in Grand Rapids girls basketball history when the Cougars stunned then 10-time (now 13-time) MHSAA Finals champion Detroit Country Day 51-43 in the 2010 Class B championship game.

Instead of driving her teams even harder after such losses, Nagel said she has the wisdom to use them as a teaching tool.

It's all about age and reflection, she said. The combination of a second marriage, a new job outside basketball, the responsibility and joy of coaching her daughter, the experience of three years coaching at Ferris State University and the recognition that teenage athletes and their parents have changed over the years have caused Nagel to take a hard second look at how she coaches.

Nagel said her conclusions may have left her a better coach, but definitely a person who finds herself examining the big picture over her own immediate surroundings.

Which isn't to say the drive to win has passed her by. What she will say is that 30 years after her first bench position as West Catholic's freshmen coach in 1989, the game remains as fun as ever.

"Kids change, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all," she said. "I probably don't yell in practice and in the games like I used to. But I've always said you have to evaluate yourself, and I'm absolutely still having fun."

While winning still ranks near the top of her priorities, Nagel said what drives her now – both on the court and off – is the quest for balance. While still possessing a love of coaching, Nagel said family and professional happiness off the court is what she seeks. As for winning, that candle still burns – but it's no longer consuming.

"I will never think winning isn't important. I'll always think my team needs to be in it until the end," she said. "But you can be consumed with things when you should be trying to find a balance in your life. (College) was 24/7 for me, and because of that I began to reflect and I realized life should be a balance. My priority should be my family."

That's probably the No. 1 lesson that came out of coaching three years at Ferris State after leaving Catholic Central in 2012.

"You're always thinking the grass might be greener," Nagel said of making that move.

What she found was the grass wasn't greener. Nagel said the endless fundraising, the long recruiting trail and the year-round duties of a college coach wound up being more than she wanted.

Nagel was content to be out of the game while watching her daughter, Katie, play on the Catholic Central varsity as a freshman a year ago. But when then-coach Trevor Hinshaw decided to devote more time to his family and athletic director duties after going 120-28 in the six seasons after replacing Nagel, she saw an opportunity to return to a familiar post.

She had turned down the job once when she didn't want people thinking Katie had made varsity as a freshman because her mother was the coach. But Nagel couldn't pass on the opportunity when Hinshaw asked again.

"She's such a great competitor, coach and teacher," Hinshaw said of Nagel, who as a member of the search committee recommended Hinshaw for the job after leaving for Ferris State. "The relationship she builds with players is one of the keys why her teams excel on the court. It's the combination of a lot of things which make her a good coach."

Because she recognizes the growth in herself over the last few years, Nagel said she enjoys coaching as much as ever, particularly in the MHSAA Tournament. In addition to the win over Country Day in 2010, Catholic Central had a pair of Class B runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2012. Her 2002 East Grand Rapids team also finished second.

This season’s team is 11-5 overall and tied for first in the O-K Blue, with a chance at another postseason run when Districts begin in two weeks.

"It's the backbone of everything I coach for," she said of the postseason. "I want my teams to be as ready for the tournament like I always did.

"But you can drive yourself crazy in saying, 'This is what we should be doing. How can I create what we need to do?'  You evolve with time. I'm not saying I still won't yell at referees or whomever. But like a parent, you should become smarter.

"You need to see that times change. There's still a right way to play – you hustle, have a good attitude and if you knock someone down you pick them up. But you evolve."

PHOTOS: (Top) Colleen Nagel returned to coaching Grand Rapids Catholic Central this season, including her sophomore daughter Katie Tate. (Middle) Nagel guides her team during the 2012 Class B Final. (Top photo courtesy of the Nagel family.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)