Mattawan’s athletic department has been selected for a Quality Program Award from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), becoming the second Michigan school to receive the exemplary-level honor since the QPA was introduced in 2009.
Programs were considered by the NIAAA based on 10 assessment categories that aspire to “encourage measurement, planning and goal setting aimed at continuous improvement of local school athletic programs.” Mattawan will be recognized for the achievement during December’s NIAAA/NFHS National Athletic Directors Conference in Nashville, Tenn.
Mattawan sponsors 23 sports, and 563 of the school’s 1,180 students during the 2021-22 school year participated on at least one team.
“Here at Mattawan, we take great pride in our athletics and activities. We are continuously trying to improve so that our student-athletes have the best experience possible,” athletic director Chad Yager said. “The NIAAA Quality Program Award model guided us through a complete evaluation of our athletic programs. In doing this, we were able to reaffirm what we know we do well, (with the program) also showing us areas that need improvement.
“We are extremely proud of this achievement and will continue to grow as a school and community through continuous evaluation of our programs.”
Mattawan previously received an Exemplary Athletic Program Award in 2005 from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA).
PHOTO The Mattawan boys soccer team celebrates its Division 2 championship won in 2016.
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.”
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.
“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.)