Betty Wroubel still remembers the first pop fly she caught 57 years ago.
Perhaps fleeting for most, it was one of the earliest memorable moments that eventually led to a career stretching four decades and impacting thousands of high school athletes across our state.
Wroubel – one of Michigan’s winningest high school coaches in both volleyball and softball with more than 2,000 combined victories – also has served as an athletic director and in various other leadership positions since beginning her educational career in 1975. Her contributions to educational athletics over the last 40 years will be celebrated Sunday, Feb. 7, when she receives the MHSAA’s 29th Women In Sports Leadership Award during the WISL banquet at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West.
“When I look at all of those names (of past WISL winners), knowing what they meant to the advancement of girls sports in schools and the total sports culture, it boggles my mind that I can be mentioned in those,” Wroubel said. “I’m not so sure I belong in there. I’ve had great leaders; my high school teachers and coaches were great leaders. I know nothing more than to work hard to make things better, sometimes inch by inch, sometimes two inches forward and one back – and sometimes leaps forward.”
The honor, given annually by the MHSAA Representative Council, recognizes the achievements of women coaches, officials and athletic administrators affiliated with the MHSAA who show exemplary leadership capabilities and positive contributions to athletics.
Wroubel, a 1971 graduate of Clawson High School, first returned to teach and coach at her alma mater, and currently serves as the athletic director, varsity volleyball and softball coach at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. She also continues to teach sports medicine and leadership classes at the school.
She’s served in the athletic department at Notre Dame Prep since the school opened in 1994 and also coached and served as athletic director at the former Pontiac and then Oakland Catholic high schools after her stint as a coach and teacher at Clawson. She’s third on the MHSAA coaching victories list for volleyball with a record of 1,306-290-122. In 2015, she became the 14th coach in MHSAA softball history to win at least 800 games and sits 12th on that career wins list with a record of 826-293-3.
Wroubel also has been a registered MHSAA official in both volleyball and softball since the 1975-76 school year and has held numerous leadership positions as part of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, her sports’ coaches associations and the Detroit Catholic High School League. She’s hosted numerous MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program sessions and mentored young officials as part of the MHSAA Legacy Program.
“Betty Wroubel has dedicated much of the last four decades to assisting student-athletes and is passionate about the mission of educational athletics,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “Education is her life’s work, and that remains clear in her emphasis on coaches training and desire to continue teaching students as well – both in the classroom and on the volleyball court and softball diamond. We’re pleased to honor her with the Women In Sports Leadership Award.”
Wroubel earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Michigan University and her master’s in classroom teaching from Michigan State University. She was a five-sport athlete at Clawson High School – participating in basketball, volleyball, track & field, tennis and softball – and went on to play volleyball, tennis and field hockey at CMU.
Among those who provided Wroubel early mentorship was Judy Hacker, a teacher and coach at Clawson from 1962-95 who died in 2011 and like Wroubel was a pioneer in girls athletics during their early growth in the 1970s and 80s. Wroubel also was impacted athletically by her parents Marshall and Lucille; Marshall was a recognized youth baseball coach in Clawson and with Lucille provided opportunities for Betty to compete during an era when they were only first starting to emerge.
During her early years coaching and teaching at Clawson, Wroubel also worked as an assistant athletic director at Pontiac Catholic. She then took over as fulltime athletic director there, leaving her alma mater, but continued to pass on those many lessons learned to another generation including her Pontiac Catholic volleyball coach at the time, Dianne Phillips – who has gone on to rank 11th on the MHSAA volleyball coaching wins list with 986 victories mostly over the last 17 seasons at Dearborn High.
“Betty has dedicated her expertise, time and energy to coaching hundreds of young women in more than just sport, but in life lessons as well,” Phillips said. “Betty’s leadership skills and grounded philosophies are a model to all who aspire to teach and coach. The positive impact Betty has made on the lives of so many young people can never be overestimated.”
Wroubel led teams to MHSAA championships in two decades; her Pontiac Catholic softball team won the Class C title in 1983, and her Notre Dame Prep volleyball teams won Class B titles in fall 2007 and 2013. In 2010, Notre Dame Prep dedicated its new athletic facility in her name: the Betty A. Wroubel Athletic Performance Center.
She is a member of various Halls of Fame – she’s been inducted by the Detroit Catholic League, Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association, Michigan High School Coaches Association, Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association and the Michigan chapter of the United States Specialty Sports Association. She received the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2010 for her continuing service to high school athletics, with the WISL Award her second from the association.
Her administrative efforts were recognized twice by the Detroit Catholic League with its Tom Kelly Athletic Director of the Year Award in 1994 and 2007. Wroubel also was named National High School Coach of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association in 2007 and state coach of the year by MIVCA for Class B in 2007, 2013 and 2014. She also was named Michigan High School Coaches Association Volleyball Coach of the Year in 2014.
Wroubel served on the Catholic League’s executive board and as an officer for more than 30 years and on a variety of MHSAA committees during her long tenure as an athletic director. She has served on boards for the statewide volleyball coaches association for more than 30 years and statewide softball coaches association for more than 25.
As would be expected by a coach with such success across multiple sports, Wroubel remains an ardent supporter of athletes playing as many as possible despite a recent shift toward specialization.
“By (coaching both), I hope it sends a nonverbal message that if I can coach, they can certainly play multiple sports,” Wroubel said. “That’s been the biggest change; kids are so specialized. The pressure is on us (coaches) to do more and more training. But during the school year, we don’t do anything; I don’t get out a softball. That tells them to go play basketball, ski, go cheer, go bowl.”
Wroubel also volunteers for her church and the American Red Cross, and with a local food bank and soup kitchen.
The first Women In Sports Leadership Award was presented in 1990.
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
PHOTOS: (Top) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball coach Betty Wroubel, left, celebrates the 2013 Class B championship with her team. (Middle) Wroubel instructs her players during the Semifinal match that season.
Owosso’s Macy Irelan earned 11 entries in the MHSAA record book over her three-year varsity career that came to a close last spring, most notably with her 1,157 strikeouts despite the 2020 season being canceled due to COVID-19.
Irelan’s career strikeouts were the second-most in the state since the pitching distance was lengthened three feet in 2011. She finished 31-7 last spring with a 1.43 ERA and 414 strikeouts in 229 2/3 innings in earning the Miss Softball Award for pitching.
She also hit .551 with 21 doubles last season, and her 55 career doubles over 117 games and three seasons made that category career list. She’s continuing her career at Kent State.
See below for more recent additions to the softball record book:
Unionville-Sebewaing’s dominating run to the 2021 Division 4 championship was filled with seven record book-worthy highlights, including many near the top of all-time lists. In going 40-3, the Patriots tied their season record for wins for the second time. Their 502 runs scored ranked third all-time, with their 493 hits tied for ninth, their 114 doubles second, their 49 home runs also tied for ninth, their 431 RBI also second and their 503 strikeouts thrown ranking third. Senior Brynn Polega completed her career with 13 record book entries despite her junior season being canceled because of COVID-19; she added listings for 71 runs, 79 hits, a third-best 28 doubles, 11 homers, 70 RBI, four perfect games pitching and 365 strikeouts, among others. Then-junior Laci Harris made lists with 77 runs, 83 hits, 22 doubles, 14 homers and 78 RBI, while then-junior Macy Reinhardt was added for 78 runs and then-freshman Gabriella Crumm was added for 16 doubles. Polega, Harris and Reinhardt also posted entries for single-game accomplishments. Polega is playing at Northwood and Harris at Madonna.
Big Rapids set a school record for wins in 2021 in finishing 34-7, a run which included a number of accomplishments that reached the record book. The Cardinals scored 439 runs – tied for 12th on that list – and also as a team were added for 428 hits, 82 doubles and 363 RBI, which tied for 10th all-time. Marissa Warren made the individual hits list with 71, while Hanna Smith earned an entry with 20 doubles and Rylie Haist followed with 19. Josie Cornell was added with 40 walks drawn. Warren, Smith and Haist were added for single-game accomplishments as well, as was Madison Affer from a 2019 game. Haist, Smith and Cornell are seniors this school year, and Warren is a junior. Smith has signed with Ferris State.
A pair of Bad Axe standouts earned record book entries in 2021 with their work at the plate. Haley Newland made the single-season doubles list with 19, and Brooke Messing was added for seven RBI in a game that saw her hit a grand slam and three-run homer. Newland graduated last spring and Messing is a senior this school year.
Montrose then-freshman Lainey Cannon made two record book lists with her performance April 25 against Montrose. She hit three home runs to make the single-game list in that category, and also made the single-game RBI list with eight.
Capac then-sophomore Madalyn Roberson made the record book three times with her performance May 9 against Brown City. She hit two home runs in back-to-back at bats, both during the fifth inning, and also drove in six runs for the game.
Spring Lake standouts now fill the record book after the addition of 55 individual and 23 team entries dating back to the 2000 season. Among listings ranking highest in their respective categories were Madelyn Nelson’s 81 runs in 2018, which tied for seventh all-time; Nelson’s 250 career runs from 2015-18) that rank seventh and Lauren Hellman’s 249 career runs also from 2015-18 that rank eighth on that list; Nelson’s 84 hits in 2018 that are tied for 12th-most all-time and her 264 career hits that rank 11th, Leah Vaughan’s 26 doubles in 2019 that rank seventh, Evie Lorimer’s 16 triples in 2011 that are tied for eighth and her 37 career triples from 2010-12 that are ranked fourth, Vaughan’s 23 career times being hit by pitch from 2016-19 which rank second, and Lorimer’s 92 stolen bases in 2012 that rank second (with all 92 coming consecutively to tie for fifth on that list) and 183 career steals that rank 11th. As a team, Spring Lake in 2017 ranked seventh all-time with 501 hits over 42 games, fourth with 109 doubles and eighth with 34 triples. The 2018 team ranks 11th with 441 runs scored over 41 games, 10th with 497 hits and tied for ninth with 100 doubles. Valerie Alter, Linsey Paggeot, Jenna Core, Molly Poole, Alicia Mumby, Leah Anton, Ann Marie Galloway and Rachael Adams also earned individual entries. Nelson went on to play at Grand Valley State, Vaughan plays at Aquinas College, Lorimer played at Central Michigan, Alter played at Jacksonville University (Fla.), Poole plays at Cornerstone University and Mumby played at Lansing Community College. Core plays volleyball at Hope College.
Freeland’s offense earned five record book entries during the team’s 26-12 season in 2022, including for 412 runs scored, 442 hits, 78 doubles, 336 RBI and a .400 team batting average. Three individuals also earned entries – sophomore Addie Steffen for a 20-game hitting streak and seven RBI in a game, junior Evelynn Rybicki for six RBI in a game and freshman Brynn Jaime for getting hit by a pitch twice in the same inning.
Chloe Parker hit .604 last spring and made the records with 20 doubles over 33 games for Niles Brandywine. She’s a junior this school year.
A series of record book entries were added for past and present Zeeland West standouts. Carly Sleeman was added for 73 runs, 75 hits, 27 doubles and 12 home runs in 2021 as a sophomore, while Lily Brower was added for 72 runs, 17 triples and 11 homers, plus 38 doubles and 29 triples over a four-year varsity career. Sleeman’s 27 doubles are tied for fifth-most in one season, and Brower’s 17 triples are tied for fourth on that list. Haley Hoogenraad was added for 70 hits and 17 doubles as a junior in 2015, 19 doubles as a senior, and 49 doubles and 24 triples over her four-year career from 2013-16. Kenzie Siersma was added for 17 doubles in 2017 and 54 over her career from 2016-19, while Courtney Sleeman made the season home runs list with 15 in 2015 and Sarah VanValkenburg made the career RBI list with 152 from 2014-17. Emily Brands was added for hitting consecutive home runs in the same inning, May 7 against Reese; she graduated this spring. Hoogenraad went on to play at University of Michigan, Courtney Sleeman played at Western Michigan, Siersma plays at West Virginia Tech, Brower played last season at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and Carly Sleeman has signed with Central Michigan.
PHOTO Owosso’s Macy Irelan unloads a pitch during the 2021 Division 2 Final.