Big Hitter Now Chelsea Show-Stopper

October 8, 2015

By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half 

CHELSEA – Emma Hess has spent much of her young life chasing dreams and overcoming odds.

Too young to be involved with the volleyball team? She became a ball girl and manager for the Chelsea High School varsity as a fifth-grader.

Too inexperienced to get a part in a movie? She has been in three movies and moved to California for a year to pursue acting before she decided to return to Chelsea.

Too short to be an outside hitter on the varsity volleyball team? She played on a club volleyball team, took jump training to help elevate her leaping ability and made the Class B all-state team as a junior outside hitter.

Now a senior, the 5-foot-8 Hess is leading Chelsea to another fine season. The Bulldogs are 20-8 and ranked No. 7 in the latest Class B state poll.

Learning the game

Being the daughter of a former setter at Ohio University, Hess was introduced to volleyball at a young age and had the passion to play. Mary Jo Hess, Emma’s mother, was the seventh-grade coach, so Emma had a chance to be manager as a third-grader.

Two years later, she was doing the same thing for Chelsea coach Laura Cleveland’s varsity team.

Cleveland wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the little girl with a big smile when they first met.

“I saw a small little kid, but the biggest thing I saw in Emma – she had a great smile – was that she had a great attitude for learning,” Cleveland said. “When she came in when I was coaching, she would listen to what I was saying, and she would watch the girls and watch the demonstrations and then she would go over and practice it.

“She has a love for the game, and she has an attitude for learning. I think she always had a passion for it since she was little. She made the decision to pursue the passion, and it’s really turned out terrific for her in terms of being able to enjoy playing and playing at a high level because she has put in so much work.”

Hess began playing organized volleyball in the seventh grade, but at the same time she had another dream. After watching several movies on the Disney Channel, Hess told her mother that she wanted to become an actress.

In front of the camera

Sam and Mary Jo Hess listened to their daughter and decided to help her achieve her dream.

“I didn’t they took me seriously, but my mother found me an agent in Michigan, and I got a couple of jobs,” Hess said.

Mary Jo Hess conceded that there was some apprehension about letting Emma pursue acting at such a young age.

“I never would have pursued it for her if I hadn’t gone and seen about getting an agent and heard from some real professionals in the business that were saying, ‘This is really something you should do,’ ” Mary Jo Hess said. “I wanted her to play volleyball since she was a little girl, so when the acting thing came along, I wasn’t expecting that at all.

“We wanted to make sure if this was something she would pursue later, we wanted to know the right people and have her in the right place and make sure she would be taken care of. The worst thing that could have happened is, if we hadn’t done that, when she graduates high school she leaves and you hear about a lot of people who get manipulated.”

In a short amount of time, Hess was able to get three movie credits: “Smooch,” “James and Jenna” and “Home Run Showdown” were filmed in 2011 and 2012. She was credited as Emma-Lee Hess.

“She had a ton of success early,” Mary Jo Hess said. “I had heard a quote that said, ‘It’s typically 45 auditions before you book something,’ and by her fifth audition she had booked something that was a good gig for a commercial.”

Perhaps the largest hurdle of the three movies was landing the role in “Home Run Showdown,” which had more than 1,000 kids audition for parts – and Hess was the only girl on a story surrounding a Little League baseball team. It was filmed mostly in the Michigan towns of Milford and Taylor and also in Toledo, Ohio, and the cast was headlined by recognizable actors Dean Cain and Matthew Lillard.

“It wasn’t really big, but it paid money,” Hess said. “It was an experience, and it was really fun. I spent my whole summer with about 30 guys playing baseball and was the only girl.

“I also did a Hallmark movie called ‘Smooch,’ which plays on Valentine’s Day normally, and I also did a short film called ‘James and Jenna.’ I got to meet some really cool people on that.”

So, in the eighth grade, Hess moved to California to pursue acting, but she soon discovered that the business side of it was extremely tough, and she returned home after a year.

“I really wanted to pursue the TV aspect of it, but there was so much rejection out there, and I guess I wanted to do something where I would be rewarded,” Hess said. “I wanted people to know my name in acting, and because it wasn’t happening at the pace that I wanted, I decided to focus on something else, so volleyball became my motivation.

“Being in a town like this, people know me for the movies a little bit, but being known for volleyball is really important to me. Volleyball became my motivation.”

Above the net

In the ninth grade, Hess returned to Chelsea and returned to volleyball. She made the junior varsity team, but she was an outside hitter and not a setter as her mother had hoped.

“Mom wanted to raise a setter, but she has her daddy’s leaps, so I had to let that go,” said Mary Jo Hess, who is an assistant coach on the varsity. “When she was a freshman and setting on the JV, a short time afterward Coach Cleveland moved her, and that was OK, and of course I defer to her for everything.”

Cleveland saw something special in Hess despite being a few inches shorter than ideal for an outside hitter.

“As a freshman, we tried her as a setter, but then I thought, ‘No, that one’s a hitter,’” Cleveland said. “The thing about volleyball is that height would be great, but really it’s speed, and Emma has speed. If you’re fast and jump well and are faster than the block, those are things you really want.”

Although Hess is able to elevate above the net and delivers some powerful kills, her game is not all about speed and power. She has excellent vision and often will place the ball in a vacant spot on the court with a softer hit for a kill.

“I have a height disadvantage, especially being on the outside where most sets go to,” she said. “I really try to beat people at their own game, so if you’re not going to be on the line, I’m going to shoot it there.

“I try to read beforehand and pick out things that I know they’re not going to be able to pick up. That’s a big part. Being able to tip smart is really important. I have to go up and jump really high, and I use everything I’ve got to get up, and I swing hard. I don’t want them to be able to touch it because that’s the best feeling, getting a kill.”

Hess made varsity as a sophomore, and last year she made all-state as a junior.

“I love hitting a ball that no one touches, and even if there is a block, knowing that at my height and at that disadvantage, to take advantage of another team like that is great,” Hess said. “You get so excited, and the crowd pushes you so much.”

Never satisfied, Hess then set another goal for this season.

“This year, I want to run the defense and have the most kills,” she said.

Cleveland confirmed that the latest challenge is another win for Hess.

“She really is reading well and is in the right positions, and that is one of her biggest assets,” Cleveland said. “That’s both offensively and defensively.”

Hess wants to continue playing volleyball in college and has talked with Ferris State, Northwood and Eastern Michigan. She has a 3.977 grade point average, so academics won’t be a problem. Ambition won’t be a problem, either.

“I definitely want to do something in political and social studies and maybe major in political science,” Hess said. “And then I want to go to law school.”

It might not be wise to bet against her.

Chip Mundy served as sports editor at the Brooklyn Exponent and Albion Recorder from 1980-86, and then as a reporter and later copy editor at the Jackson Citizen-Patriot from 1986-2011. He also co-authored Michigan Sports Trivia. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Chelsea's Emma Hess hits during a match this season. (Middle) Hess played a prominent role in the 2012 film "Home Run Showdown." (Below) Hess goes high over the net on a kill attempt. (Photos courtesy of the Hess family.)

VIDEOS: Below are a video of Hess' highlights and also the trailer for "Home Run Showdown." Hess plays the role of Fassi. 

2023 WISL Award Honoree Glass Continuing to Create Leaders On Court & Off

By Geoff Kimmerly 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 passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.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.