Neighbors, Friends & Coaching Legends
April 26, 2018
By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
When Kris Hubbard was asked to coach the fledgling Ottawa Lake Whiteford softball team in the late 1970s, the first person she went to for advice was her neighbor, Kay Johnson.
Johnson, who already had been coaching the Morenci softball team for about five years, wrote down a couple of pages worth of tips, from offensive situations for practice to drills for outfielders. Those golden rules given from one friend to another helped build the foundation for Hubbard’s career that has spanned 40 years, more than 800 wins and three MHSAA Finals championships.
“I wanted to start a softball program and I said to her, ‘Okay, what do I need to do?’” Hubbard recalls. “I think I still have it. It was a pretty good list.”
“I got her started,” Johnson said. “I don’t know that I taught her a lot.”
Johnson graduated from Whitmer High School in Toledo in 1968 and Adrian College in 1972. She lived in Sylvania, Ohio, only a couple of miles from Whiteford High School, and accepted a teaching and coaching job at Morenci. She coached volleyball, basketball, softball and track. Her 1976 Bulldogs track & field team won the Lower Peninsula Class D championship.
Hubbard grew up in Blissfield and played college basketball at Western Michigan University, graduating in 1973. After college she accepted a teaching job at Whiteford and early on was coaching track, volleyball and basketball for the Bobcats. After the 1978 track season, Hubbard stepped down as head coach for that team. It was then that some of the Whiteford girls came to her and asked if she would be interested in coaching them in a new sport at the school – softball.
“I had played fast-pitch softball, but I didn’t know all of the little things kids needed to know,” Hubbard said. “That’s why I went to her.”
Johnson and Hubbard had met a few years earlier when Johnson was playing on a Toledo city league recreation basketball team. Her team needed more players and her uncle told her about Hubbard, who, come to find out, was a distant relative. The two didn’t know each other, but they lived about a long fly ball from each other at the Michigan-Ohio border.
“My mom’s brother was married to her grandma’s sister,” Johnson said. “We didn’t know each other. I was at Thanksgiving and my uncle said I should call her for the basketball team.”
“So, I talked with her and I thought maybe we could ride together,” Hubbard recalls. “I asked where she lived. Turns out, she lived on the first street into Ohio (across the state line) and I lived on the first street in Michigan. … We have a lot in common. Both of us like sports and have similar interests. We’ve been friends ever since.”
They’ve been more than just rivals in different dugouts. When Hubbard was getting married in the 1980s, she moved in with Johnson after her house sold. For years they have traveled to softball coaching clinics together, even making a presentation on softball drills at least once. This past winter they vacationed together.
“She’s been a good friend,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard had never coached softball but was a fast learner. Her first three Bobcats teams won Tri-County Conference championships from 1979-81. In 1984, the Bobcats won their first of three Class D championships over the next four years.
Ironically, only one of those state title teams won a league championship. That’s because Tri-County Conference opponent Summerfield won the Class C title in 1984 and Johnson’s Morenci team won Class C titles in 1985 and 1986.
The league has been a softball powerhouse from the start. Since 1984, Summerfield and Whiteford have three MHSAA Finals titles each and Morenci and Clinton two apiece. Numerous TCC teams have reached the Semifinals or played in championship games. Whiteford, for example, played in the 2017 Division 4 Final and Morenci in the 2016 Semifinals.
“There have been some good coaches in the TCC, and I’m not talking about us,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard has 11 TCC titles to her credit, including the 2017 win. Robert Taylor (Summerfield) has eight league titles, Johnson seven and Al Roberts (Clinton) five.
The league has also been home to some tremendous talent. Summerfield’s Michelle Bolster played at Indiana University. Whiteford’s Leigh Ross was an All-American at the University of Toledo, later coached at Syracuse and is now a softball analyst for ESPN and the Big Ten Network. Morenci pitcher Renae Merillat was an All-American at Hillsdale College. Summerfield’s Melissa Taylor claimed the statewide Miss Softball Award as the top position player in 1997.
Johnson entered 2018 with 889 career victories, Hubbard with 813, putting them both near the top of the MHSAA softball coaching wins list. Johnson has more than any softball coach in Lenawee County history, while Hubbard passed Monroe’s Vince Rossi last year to become the winningest softball coach in Monroe County history. This year, both teams are in a loaded Division 4 District that includes Britton Deerfield, Summerfield and Sand Creek.
“There have been times where the District is tougher than Regional,” Hubbard said.
Johnson said both she and Hubbard have the same philosophy when it comes to the regular season – throw out the records and build a team that can contend for an MHSAA championship.
“Our league prepares us for the District tournament,” she said. “We both put teams on our schedule that are going to challenge us. I’d rather lose 3-1 then win 15-0. Winning 15-0 does nothing. It doesn’t teach anything.”
Morenci was a member of the Lenawee County Athletic Association before joining the TCC in the early 1980s. That meant the two friends would be coaching against each other at least twice a year.
“We’ve done it enough now that it’s just another league game,” Johnson said.
It’s no accident the two have similar coaching styles and strategy when it comes to developing pitchers, bunting at key situations in a game and advancing runners.
“We talk about softball a lot, just not about playing each other. That’s not exactly fun,” Hubbard said. “I think we are both pretty laid back. To coach as long as we have, you have to be.”
The game has changed over the years – the ball itself is much different than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. The home run was rare 20 years ago but is now part of the game, something Johnson isn’t thrilled about.
“I hate the home run in fast-pitch,” she said. “I want doubles, triples and relays from the outfield. I want action. You work your defense. I want them to be able to show off. The bats have really livened up the game.”
Hubbard wants to coach the Bobcats at least one more year after this season. This spring her team has seven players back, including its top pitcher, from last year’s runner-up finish. Most are only juniors. She smiles easily when talking about ex-players and their after-school successes.
“I love Facebook for one reason – you get to follow a lot of your former athletes,” she said. “There’s a whole lot of them who are really successful in life. That’s what it is all about. It’s a game. Softball is just a game. It’s (a small part) of your life. If you turn out all right, that’s what it is about.”
Johnson used to identify pitching prospects while teaching physical education at Morenci. She was later a principal and now is athletic director at Morenci along with softball coach.
“It’s sustained over the years,” Johnson said of the program. “We’ve had our low years. One year we only won five games. But, program-wise, year-in and year-out, we bring out the quality kids. They know the expectations. They have a high grade-point average. When you are getting those quality kids out, you know they are going to give you a good effort.”
Johnson and Hubbard will square off this season May 22 in a doubleheader at Whiteford. Before the game, which will be the 106th and 107th meetings between the two all-time, Hubbard will put a Snapple in the dugout for Johnson. Neither coach is interested in knowing who has the upper hand when it comes to the head-to-head series.
“You don’t get real fired up about it,” Hubbard said. “For those two hours I want to kick her butt and she wants to kick mine. We are going to be friends no matter what.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Morenci’s Kay Johnson encourages her next hitter as a runner reaches third base. (Middle) Ottawa Lake Whiteford’s Kris Hubbard surveys the field during Wednesday’s sweep of Petersburg Summerfield. (Photos by Mike Dickie and Angela Link, respectively.)
2023 WISL Award Honoree Glass Continuing to Create Leaders On Court & Off
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 2, 2023
Hailing from one of Michigan’s smallest communities, Laurie Glass has made an impact that continues to connect all over Michigan.
But her impact on women’s athletics began long before a career that has seen the longtime Leland volleyball coach become one of the winningest in her sport in state history.
As a high school junior in 1976, she recruited seven classmates and a coach to form Leland’s first girls sports team – for basketball – and the same group then played volleyball that winter. She was a senior and major contributor when, during their second season, the Comets won the 1978 Class D volleyball championship.
More than four decades later, Glass is a Michigan legend in that sport – a winner of 1,218 matches with Leland and Traverse City Central and three Finals championships with the Comets. She’s also a nationally-recognized voice in volleyball and women’s athletics as a whole – and this year’s MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership honoree for those many and continuing contributions.
“Because I’m a teacher and coach, that’s my desire to help the youth be the best they could be. And if I can impact a coach or impact another district or program, that means I’m affecting more youth in a positive way,” Glass said. “So for me, it’s just the ripple effect; it gets a lot bigger when I’m starting little drops in other places. So I can affect the hundreds of kids that I’ve seen go through Leland, or I can impact the larger audience by impacting coaches or impacting kids in other places that can then impact other people. It allows me a wider audience for wanting to help young women to be their best young woman self in however way I can make that happen.”
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.
Leland finished 49-13 this past season and reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals. Glass has a record of 1,218-393-122 over more than three decades as a varsity volleyball coach, having led the Comets for a combined 29 seasons over three tenures, the first beginning with the 1989-90 winter season and later picking up with her most recent return for Fall 2010. She also coached Traverse City Central for four seasons beginning in 1991-92.
Glass led Leland to Class D Finals championships in 2002, 2006 and 2015, and runner-up finishes in Class D in 2014 and Division 4 in 2018 and 2019. She was named to the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) Hall of Fame in 2006, and selected as national Coach of the Year in volleyball in 2014 by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association. She’s a three-time MIVCA Coach of the Year and was named Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA) Coach of the Year for volleyball in 2015. She also was a finalist for National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) national Coach of the Year in 2014.
Glass has spoken multiple times at the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Conference and several times at the MIVCA Coaches Clinic, and among various other engagements was the featured speaker at the Nebraska Athletic Association Coaches Clinic. She will receive the Women In Sports Leadership Award during the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Basketball Final on March 18 at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
“Laurie Glass is recognized most on the statewide level for leading one of the most successful volleyball programs in state history. But she is known among her peers most for the way she teaches not only volleyball but life skills to her athletes,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Her leadership creates more leaders, be they the athletes who have the opportunity to play for her or the coaches who learn from her and receive her mentorship.”
Glass’ roots are in one of the most accomplished athletic families in Michigan high school history.
Her father Larry Glass coached Northwestern University’s men’s basketball program from 1963-69, and later took over the Leland girls basketball program and led the Comets to a 388-110 record and three straight Class D Finals championships (1980-82) over two tenures from 1977-91 and 2000-05. Laurie’s sister Rebecca McKee played basketball at Leland and Michigan State University, and her brother Michael Glass played basketball at Lansing Community College before also becoming a high school and college coach.
Laurie also coached and parented arguably the most accomplished volleyball player – and perhaps top female athlete across all sports – in Michigan high school history. Her daughter Alisha Glass-Childress graduated from Leland in 2006 with national records for career kills, aces and blocks, and the first two still top those respective lists. Alisha, also an all-state basketball player, went on to star on the volleyball court at Penn State and as the U.S. Olympic team setter in 2016 in helping that team to the bronze medal.
Larry Glass’ lessons still ring true as Laurie passes them on to another generation. One of her favorite sayings from her father was “you can’t take money out of the bank until you put money in” – in essence, a coach can’t expect athletes to accept criticism or a hard ask if that coach first hasn’t invested in them. Another of her dad’s themes involved making sure players learned fundamentals at young ages and improved on them at all levels, whether they won games or not during those early years. As one of his middle school coaches, that stuck with her, and it remains a basic component of her coaching.
“I’ve always said that we compete with teams that are way more athletic, have all the things on paper that should beat us. And the fact that we know how to be a really good team is what allows us to beat people who on paper should be better than us,” Laurie Glass said. “I’ve always valued the time spent on culture and team because that’s the advantage we hold. We’re never going to be the tallest or most talented – Alisha being the anomaly, of course.”
Laurie Glass has served on the MIVCA Executive Board, including as president, and is a member of the MHSCA and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). Locally, her program annually hosts the Forever Dig Abby match in honor of former player Abby Gross, who died after a fight against cancer in 2015. Proceeds most years go to benefit another community member battling the disease, and this past season went to a fund for efforts related to ovarian cancer.
Glass has served nearly 35 years in education and retired from her duties as a behavior intervention specialist and special education teacher in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District in 2019. She has returned to the school setting, however, and is in her second year as a behavior intervention specialist at Leland.
Glass earned a bachelor’s degree in special education with an endorsement in emotional impairment from Western Michigan University in 1988, and has done master-level coursework in education administration and technology. She also is a certified instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute. Glass first attended Grand Valley State University and played a season of volleyball before transferring. (NOTE: Glass also coached the Kalamazoo Central varsity for two seasons during the mid-1980s. Those records are unavailable currently but will be added to her overall record when research is complete.)
Past Women In Sports Leadership Award Winners
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
2021 – Dorene Ingalls, St. Ignace
2022 – Lori Hyman, Livonia
PHOTOS (Top) Leland coach Laurie Glass confers with one of her players during the 2019 Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Glass passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.