Next Play: Action Plans Save Lives

July 2, 2015

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

Without a doubt, questions will enter the minds of many as they attend AED or CPR training sessions, or MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program courses on health and safety:

“Will I ever need any of this?” 

“Is this worth my time?”

The answer to the first question is, “Hopefully not.” The answer to the second musing lies in the stories that follow, excerpted from a small sampling of countless situations occurring in school buildings on a regular basis. These had happy endings, thanks to trained, educated individuals who knew how to react. The MHSAA’s mandate for CPR certification in 2015-16 aims to put more school sports personnel into that position.

Roughly 30 months after the tragic death of Wes Leonard, a Fennville High School basketball player who collapsed moments after his shot capped a perfect regular season in 2011, his mother Jocelyn helped to save the life of another Fennville student.

Thanks in large part to her efforts to promote greater presence of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in high schools across Michigan, and to provide training for such circumstances as the one in which she lost her son, Jocelyn was prepared for such a moment in the school where she serves as a choir teacher. 

In October 2013 a Fennville High student collapsed in the middle of a math class prompting an alert being sent to Leonard, who rushed down the hall to the classroom and began CPR. She activated the AED that had been retrieved from the school’s office and used it on the boy, who was resuscitated as emergency responders arrived on the scene.

The Leonard family continues to campaign for mandatory advanced CPR training and practice in schools across the state through the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation, and more can be found by clicking here.

Chess can be a mentally exhausting game. Thinking of your opponent’s moves and the counter moves you can make, often anticipating many moves into the future, can be stressful and draining. Luckily, Andrew Wilson, a sophomore member of the Streamwood (Illinois) High School chess team, used that quick thinking to save a 7-year-old girl’s life in February. 

Wilson had just finished a long four-game day at the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) state chess tournament in Peoria, Ill., and was eating dinner with a friend when they heard screams coming from the pool area at the hotel where the team was staying. Initially thinking nothing of it, Wilson and his friend continued eating before the reason for the screaming became known.

“We both agreed it was probably just a bunch of kids playing in the pool,” Wilson said. “After a while, a man came in and said that some girl had a seizure and asked if anyone in the lobby knew CPR. 

“I said I did, ran in, gave CPR and revived her.”

Wilson had become certified in CPR less than a year ago as part of the Elgin Explorers Group, which is conducted by the Elgin Police Department for teenagers interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. There, Wilson learned about being a police officer, just like his father who is on the Elgin Police Force. 

“I didn’t expect to have to use [the certification] at all,” Wilson said. “I remember during training, I said, ‘I don’t understand why I’m going to need this.’”

The rest of the weekend in Peoria was uneventful, even with three more chess matches the next day, Wilson said. The Streamwood chess team didn’t win the tournament, but they brought home a hero. 

Wilson was recognized at a ceremony in March, where he received a proclamation from Illinois Senator Michael Noland and an award from the police department. Both he and his chess coach, Pat Hanley, won awards from the U46 School District at the ceremony as well.

“While you may not have won the chess tournament, you’re definitely a winner in our eyes,” Board Member Traci O’Neal Ellis said while presenting the certificates of achievement.

(Below by Juli Doshan for

Kent City's Evers Selected for NFHS National 'Coach of the Year' Honor

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 11, 2023

Kent City cross country coach Jill Evers has been named the 2021-22 National Coach of the Year for girls cross country by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.

Evers was selected by a committee including representatives from all eight NFHS sections – Michigan is part of Section 4 with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The following brief bio includes an excerpt from Evers’ coaching philosophy, which nominees were asked to submit after being identified as candidates for the awards.

Jill EversJill Evers joined the Kent City athletic staff as an assistant cross country coach in 1991 after previously coaching a season each at Allegan High School and Allegan Middle School. She took over Kent City’s girls and boys varsity cross country programs in 1993 and also has served as head girls track & field coach since 1993. She led Kent City’s girls cross country team to a Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final runner-up finish in 2021, the program’s second runner-up finish under her leadership, and she’s also guided Kent City’s girls program to 15 league and seven Regional titles and nine total top-eight Finals finishes. She previously was named an NFHS Section Coach of the Year for girls track & field in 2006 after leading Kent City’s girls track & field team to its first MHSAA Finals championship in that sport, and inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012. Evers also is a longtime science teacher at Kent City and advisor and mentor for a variety of school activities in addition to coaching.

“I know people say, ‘Athletics is an extension of the classroom,’ but I believe it's so much more than that. While participating in sports, young people can learn about themselves and others, challenge themselves and grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Athletics is where we learn life lessons, such as how to lose with grace, cheer for teammates and even opponents, win with humility, deal with adversity, empathize with others, respect all those involved, be grateful for healthy bodies and opportunities to compete and push ourselves beyond what was originally thought possible. Success is different for each person, but I believe cross country lends itself to individual success. Everyone can improve and learn lifelong healthy habits. Everyone can set and achieve goals. Those who aren't as fast often earn the respect of the more gifted runners because of their perseverance. It is my job as a coach to encourage, motivate, and challenge all students who want to participate, and then congratulate them for a job well done.”

Three more Michigan coaches earned honors in Section 4. Mark Posey was honored in boys golf after leading Big Rapids to a 10th-place finish in Lower Peninsula Division 3 in 2022 after four straight Finals runner-up finishes. (There was no LP boys golf season in 2020 due to COVID-19.) Lake Orion boys lacrosse coach Ronald Hebert was honored after guiding his team to the Division 1 Quarterfinals last spring after taking the Dragons to the Semifinals in 2021. Scott Werner was honored in girls track & field after leading Pewamo-Westphalia to a runner-up finish at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. P-W shared the LPD3 Finals championship in 2021 and has won titles four of the last nine seasons (not counting 2020).

The NFHS has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982.