By Jack Roberts
MHSAA Executive Director
During the fall of 2012 at Update meetings across Michigan, we described “Four Thrusts for Four Years” – four health and safety emphases that would help us keep student-athletes healthier and also get a seat for Michigan’s policies and procedures for school sports on the train of best practices – an express train that is moving faster than we've ever seen it toward more cautious practice and play policies and more educational requirements for coaches.
At this December’s meeting, the MHSAA Representative Council examined a first quarter report card – what’s been accomplished during the first year.
It has been a remarkably strong start, but it’s only a start.
The first thrust, improving management of heat and humidity, received a boost last March when the Representative Council adopted a “Model Policy for Managing Heat and Humidity.” It has been promoted in print, online and at face-to-face meetings; and the response of schools has been nothing short of outstanding.
This rapid acceptance by school administrators and coaches reflects their appreciation for a clear policy that identifies the precise conditions that call for adjustments in activities, and lists specific actions to be taken when temperature and humidity combine to reach un-safe levels. Gut and guesswork are gone.
The second thrust, raising expectations for coaches’ preparedness, is being advanced in three ways.
In May, the Representative Council adopted the requirement that by the 2014-15 school year, schools must attest that, prior to established deadlines, all assistant and subvarsity coaches at the high school level have completed annually the same MHSAA rules meeting required by all varsity head coaches or, in the alternative, one of the free online sports safety courses posted on or linked to MHSAA.com and designated to fulfill this requirement. This popular change is only the first component of this critically important second thrust.
The second component is this. The Representative Council voted in December to require by 2015-16 that MHSAA member high schools certify that all of their varsity head coaches of high school teams have a valid (current) CPR certification, with AED training as a recommended component.
As this requirement was discussed at constituent meetings, the question was frequently raised: “Why just head coaches?”
“Why indeed,” is our response. If a school has the will and resources, it most certainly should make CPR a requirement of all its coaches, as some school districts have required for many years.
CPR training is conveniently available near almost every MHSAA member school in Michigan. Still, the MHSAA will begin offering CPR certification (with AED training) on an optional basis as an extension of Level 1 of the Coaches Advancement Program (CAP) during 2014-15.
The third component of this thrust is scheduled to go before the Representative Council in March. The proposal is that all individuals hired for the first time as a varsity head coach of a high school team, to begin those coaching duties after July 31, 2016, must have completed the Coaches Advancement Program (CAP) Level 1 or 2.
The MHSAA will track compliance and prohibit varsity head coaches from attending their teams’ MHSAA tournament contests if they fail to complete this requirement, beginning in the 2016-17 school year.
In cases of very late hiring, schools may substitute two online courses of the National Federation of State High School Associations – “Fundamentals of Coaching” and “First Aid, Health and Safety.” However, that coach must complete CAP Level 1 or 2 within six months of the hiring date.
These feel like big steps to some people in MHSAA member schools – “too expensive” or “another obstacle to finding qualified coaches,” some say; but these are baby steps.
This barely keeps pace with national trends. Michigan’s tradition of local control and its distaste for unfunded mandates has kept Michigan schools in neutral while schools in most other states have made multiple levels of coaching education, and even licensing or certification, standard operating procedure.
The three initiatives to upgrade coaches education in this critical area of health and safety over the next three years only nudges Michigan to a passing grade for what most parents and the public expect of our programs. We will still trail most other states, which continue to advance the grading curve.
And for a state association that is among the national leaders by almost every other measure, it is unacceptable to be below average in what is arguably the most important of all: promoting athlete health and safety by improving the preparation of coaches.
The third health and safety thrust is a focus on practice policies to improve acclimatization and to reduce head trauma; and the fourth thrust is a focus on game rules to reduce head trauma and to identify each sport’s most injurious situations and reduce their frequency.
Because of the critical attention to football on all levels, peewee to pros, our first focus has been to football with the appointment of a football task force which has effectively combined promotion of the sport’s safety record at the school level and its value to students, schools and communities with probing for ways to make the sport still safer.
The task force proposals for practice policies are receiving most attention and will receive Council action in March (and will be published on Second Half over the next few weeks). But the task force also has assisted MHSAA staff in developing promotional materials that are already in use, and the task force pointed MHSAA staff to playing rules that need emphasis or revision to keep school-based football as safe as possible.
During 2013-14, all MHSAA sport committees will be giving unprecedented time to the topics of the third and fourth thrusts and, when necessary, a task force will be appointed to supplement those sport committee efforts.
Frequently Asked Questions About CPR Certification
Q. Who is authorized to provide CPR certification?
A. The MHSAA does not dictate which organization must provide the CPR education and certification. However, the Michigan Department of Human Services lists the following organizations that are approved to provide CPR training:
- American CPR Training: www.americancpr.com
- American Heart Association: www.americanheart.org
- American Red Cross: www.redcross.org
- American Safety and Health Institute: www.hsi.com/ashi/about
- American Trauma Event Management: www.atem.us
- Cardio Pulmonary Resource Center: 517-543-9180
- Emergency Care and Safety Institute: www.ecsinstitute.org
- EMS Safety Services: www.emssafety.com
- Medic First Aid: www.medicfirstaid.com
- National Safety Council: www.nsc.org
- Pro CPR: www.procpr.org
A. $0 to $75.
Q. How long does certification take?
A. Two to five hours.
Q. How long does the certification last?
A. Generally, two years.
Q. Does the MHSAA specify the age level for the CPR training?
A. No. Generally, the course for adults alerts candidates of the necessary modifications for children and infants, and vice versa.
Q.How expensive is the certification?
Denny White brought quite a bit to the Marysville and St. Clair communities.
In 1961, as a junior in high school, White was part of the first team to bring a football state title to Marysville.
Fifty years later, as an assistant coach, he played a vital role in bringing St. Clair its first MHSAA Finals title in baseball.
During the years in between, and decade after, White brought his knowledge of and passion for those sports to hundreds of student athletes.
But most recently, he brought the two communities together.
This past Friday night, the rival schools played for the Denny White Trophy, an award created to honor the late coach and connect the two communities where he was most revered.
“I’m so happy with all the support that has been around the project,” said Brady Beedon, a family friend who helped to create the trophy and was in the booth calling Friday night’s game for Get Stuck On Sports. “It’s the least we could’ve done for a man who helped so many athletes. His legacy deserves to be preserved.”
In a fitting tribute to White, who died Jan. 22 of this year following a long battle with cancer, the two teams played a hard-fought game at East China Stadium, with White’s alma mater Marysville coming away with a 25-20 victory.
Both teams featured players who had been coached by White at some point in one or both of the sports, as his time on the bench lasted through the fall of 2022.
That season, he coached the JV B football team at Marysville. Most recently before that, he had been the varsity baseball coach at St. Clair from 2015-21.
“Not much can unify rivals, but Coach White’s influence goes beyond that rivalry,” Marysville football coach Derrick Meier said at a press conference unveiling the trophy. “He’s affected thousands of local athletes. … It is awesome that someone had such an influence across the board with all local athletes (in multiple) sports. I contacted him my first year coaching varsity, and he was not willing to leave where he was at. I called him three subsequent years; he graciously declined. The last year he did accept, we added a JV B team, his wisdom and knowledge went well beyond just coaching on the field. We’re all lucky for his influence.
“Heroes get remembered. Coach White will be remembered.”
White was a 1963 graduate of Marysville, who then attended Ferris State and Central Michigan. His coaching journey did not begin in the area where he grew up, however, as he coached baseball and football at Newaygo High School before coming to St. Clair.
He spent 35 years in the Saints athletic program, coaching baseball and multiple levels of football.
Much of his time was spent as the pitching coach for St. Clair for coaches Richie Mallewitz and Bill McElreath. That included the 2011 season, when his pitching staff included current major leaguer Jacob Cronenworth, who now plays second base for the San Diego Padres.
Also on that staff were Joel Seddon, who was drafted twice – once out of high school and again after college – and would go on to be the closer at South Carolina; and Jared Tobey, who pitched at Wayne State and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, playing four years in their minor league system.
While White coached nearly 1,000 baseball games in his career, he was involved with more than just high school sports. He also coached a 13-year-old Little League team to a state title and the semifinals of the Great Lakes Regional in 2015.
No matter the level, White poured all he had into coaching, and that included his final season on the sidelines at Marysville, just months prior to his passing.
“Every single kid that he touched with that team, you could just tell, gravitated toward him immediately,” said Travis Disser, who coached with White that final year at Marysville. “His lessons and his light-hearted humor are just something that you can’t replace, or ever hope to. I was lucky enough to learn pitching from Coach White when I was a younger kid, as well. He was the exact same Denny White as he was all those years ago, as he was last year during his battle with cancer. Coach White was a warrior in every sense of the term. His lessons, both on the field and off the field from him, are something that I’ll never, ever forget.”
The idea to create the trophy honoring White came about not long after his death, as Beedon worked with Meier, former St. Clair athletic director Denny Borse and St. Clair assistant football coach T.J. Schindler to create and design the trophy.
The final product is a two-tiered trophy topped with a pair White’s hats – one from St. Clair, the other from Marysville – that have been bronzed. It includes the years in which he won his state titles at his respective schools, and a passage about his life. There is also room to list the yearly winners, as it is planned to represent the rivalry and shared respect for White in the two communities for years to come.
“Whether it was Little League kids over the last 20 years, or some of the football players and baseball players that he coached over the decades that he coached, all of them when they get together have great stories and fondness for all the memories that (White and his fellow coaches) helped them create,” said Sandy Rutledge, the current St. Clair athletic director and a longtime friend and colleague of White. “I think it’s awesome that now as we play for this trophy every year, it will give our coaches a chance to kind of explain who Coach was. The next generation, maybe they didn’t even know him, will know that he is a legend, and he’ll always be remembered.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) From left: St. Clair’s Larry Wawryzniak, Liam Nesbitt and Peyton Ellis, Denny White’s wife Karen White, and Marysville’s Bryce Smith, Carter Saccucci and Caz Carty stand with the first-year traveling trophy celebrating Denny White’s coaching career. (Middle) White was a mainstay in the area’s sports community for more than six decades. (Below) The trophy celebrates his contributions to both schools and will list the winners of their annual football game. (Trophy photos courtesy of Brady Beedon. Headshot courtesy of the White family.)