St Catherine's Hehs Earns NFHS Honor

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 25, 2021

Longtime Detroit-area girls tennis coach Judy Hehs has been named one of 23 National Coaches of the Year for 2019-20 by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NHFS) Coaches Association.

Hehs was selected first at the state level and then from among the eight sections that make up the NFHS – Michigan is part of Section 4 with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. She previously had been named national Coach of the Year for girls tennis for 2014-15.

The following brief bio includes an excerpt from Hehs’ coaching philosophy, which nominees were asked to submit after being identified as candidates for the awards.

Judy Hehs coached girls tennis at Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart from Fall 1996 through Spring 2019 and served as co-coach of six MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship teams over her last eight seasons with the program. She was slated to coach the girls team at Wixom St. Catherine in Spring 2020, but that season was canceled due to COVID-19. She also coached Sacred Heart’s varsity girls basketball team from 1988-95 and two sports at Detroit Country Day – field hockey in fall 1987 and then junior varsity boys tennis (while also serving as the varsity assistant) from spring 1988-2000. Hehs was inducted in 2015 into the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame and her girls tennis teams have a record of 169-80-18. She is principal at Wixom St. Catherine and in her 34th year as an educator.

“Let me share my ‘why do I coach’ philosophy: Do I coach to ‘give back?’ Do I coach to ‘make a difference?’ Do I coach for ‘selfish reasons?’ Do I coach because I ‘love it?’ I coach for all those reasons and more. The tennis court is my classroom now; it’s the place where I can teach tennis and valuable life lessons. The challenge isn’t in making great tennis players. It is about building great people. And building great people doesn’t mean we’re looking at wins and losses. Don’t get me wrong, winning is great and fun and helps to build a great team and program. But there is no better place than a tennis court to teach real life lessons – lessons about work ethic, teamwork, problem solving, independence, and the moment when effort turns into belief and belief turns into accomplishment. Athletics is a vehicle to becoming a better version of one’s self. I believe that participating in athletics can change lives, and not just the lives of the athletes whom we coach, but also the person whom we become through coaching. I had coaches in a variety of sports from elementary school through college who inspired me and motivated me to become a better version of myself. Every time I step on that tennis court, I hope to be that person in the lives of my players who inspires and motivates, and helps them become better versions of themselves. That’s why I coach.”

Four more Michigan coaches earned honors in Section 4. Dean Blackledge was honored in boys cross country after leading Hanover-Horton to its second Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship in three seasons in 2019. Kent Graves was the honoree for girls golf after leading Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern to its third-straight LP Division 2 championship that fall. Livionia Stevenson’s David Mitchell was honored in ice hockey; Stevenson most recently won the Division 2 championship in 2012 and finished runner-up in 2015 and 2016. Dexter’s Michael McHugh was honored in boys swimming & diving; although the 2019-20 Lower Peninsula boys season didn’t conclude because of COVID-19, his teams have won four straight Division 2 championships.

The NFHS has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982.

From MSP Post to Postgame: Lieutenants Return to the (Football) Field

September 27, 2023

While fans are settling into another season, Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs has been fully immersed in football for months.

The Jackson Post’s assistant post commander serves as assistant coach for Jackson High School’s varsity football team and for the team at Parkside Middle School.

“I started coaching when my older son was in youth sports, as a way to do something together that we both love,” Gibbs said. “My younger son followed the same path, so I joined his team too. I grew up in Jackson and am grateful to be able to serve my hometown from the sidelines and at our post.”

Lt. Mark Giannunzio officiates at the high school and college levels.Some 400 miles north, Lt. Mark Giannunzio is also a familiar face in and on the field. The MSP Negaunee Post assistant post commander and Eighth District public information officer enforces the rules of the game as a high school and college football official, the latter for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“I started at the high school level to stay involved in athletics and make authentic connections in the community,” Giannunzio said. “It’s rewarding to help teach the game and share knowledge of the rules. I currently have a full 11-game schedule in the GLIAC Division II college conference, with high school games interspersed during the year.”

The correlation among coaching, officiating and policing translates.

“With my fellow troopers, I want to inspire, motivate and encourage to get the most out of them,” Gibbs said. “I take the same approach with my players to figure out what they need from me, as their designated leader, to be as successful as they can. In both capacities, I do the work alongside them. We do it together.”

This approach is especially important when tough times surface. Lieutenant Gibbs’ high school team experienced tragedy right before its first game when a player died in a car crash.

“We focused on adversity,” said Gibbs, who was in a unique position to talk from a police perspective too. “It’s a benefit to have that insight and background and share it with what they can control – make good decisions and wear your seatbelt.”

Lieutenant Gibbs incorporates his coworkers when he can, like during spring conditioning when fellow troopers join him and his players, helping all involved to make new connections and build strong bonds between the students and officers.

Gibbs also coaches at Jackson Parkside Middle School.“One of the most important attributes in both careers is communication,” Giannunzio said. “Communication can make or break an official and a police officer. Much like selling a citation to a motorist, I need to be able to sell the penalty in a calm and professional manner. Demeanor and attitude go together on both the football field and when we are out patrolling in the Blue Goose.”

Treating everyone with dignity and respect is something Lieutenants Gibbs and Giannunzio commit to as members of a modern police agency and in their areas of expertise on the football field.

“Both roles afford so many opportunities to develop culture and cultivate teamwork,” Gibbs said. “The best part is watching others flourish and playing a part in their growth.”

PHOTOS (Top) Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs, left, serves as an assistant football coach for the Jackson High varsity. (Middle) Lt. Mark Giannunzio officiates at the high school and college levels. (Below) Gibbs also coaches at Jackson Parkside Middle School. (Photos provided by the Michigan State Police.)