By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor
It certainly was not the MHSAA’s intent to spur the most historically frigid back-to-back winters the state has seen. Nor did the Association wish for one of the mildest summers in recent memory during 2014.
Seemingly, it’s just Mother Nature’s way of reading into MHSAA efforts for managing heat and humidity and acclimatizing student-athletes for warm-weather activities.
Since guidelines were put in place (recommended for regular-season sessions and required for postseason tournaments) before the 2013-14 school year, there have been relatively few days during which psychrometers have had to be implemented.
“The key is, we’ve got plans in place for when the climate returns to normal trends for return-to-school practices and contests in August and September, as well as early June events,” said MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts. “It is a bit ironic that there have been relatively few days since the guidelines were established that they’ve actually come into play.”
In a nutshell, the guidelines provide instruction for four ranges of heat index: below 95 degrees; 95-99 degrees; 99-104 degrees, and heat indexes above 104 degrees, with increasing precautions in place as heat indexes rise. An index above 104 calls for all activity to cease.
Certified athletic trainers Gretchen Mohney and James Lioy agree that recent requirements in heat and hydration guidelines are a step in the right direction and encourage that – when possible – an athletic trainer oversee the implementation. Simply taking a reading from just outside the AD’s office or at home does not simulate on-site conditions.
“This doesn’t take into account the radiant heat at the site, which can drastically affect the conditions that athlete plays in. It is essential that all parties involved in making decisions to play collaborate with one another,” Mohney said.
Heat-related deaths in athletics rank only behind cardiac disorders and head and neck injuries, but such fatalities might lead the way in frustration for families and communities of the victims. The reason? Heat-related illness is totally preventable.
Another source of mild frustration is the lack of recording within the state for those practice and game situations which warrant heat protocols.
When the Representative Council was formulating the Heat and Humidity Policy, it was also mindful of ways in which the MHSAA could assist schools in putting the plan into practice. Coaches, athletic directors and trainers needed a method to record information for athletic directors to view and for the MHSAA to track. The MHSAA developed interactive web pages on MHSAA.com which allow registered personnel to record weather conditions as practices and contests are taking place, using psychrometers.
Additionally, discounted Heat and Humidity Monitors and Precision Heat Index Instruments are offered to schools through a partnership between the MHSAA and School Health.
Yet, since the availability of such tools came to fruition two years back, fewer than 1,000 entries have been recorded, and many are multiple entries from the same schools.
Of the 772 entries, only 15 took place when the heat index was in excess of 104, while just 21 indicated an index of greater than 100. Cooler temperatures could be playing a factor in the overall number of participation, particularly in the northern areas of the state.
Nearly all of the responses came during fall practices, with a few isolated cases coming during the spring.
As Mohney pointed out, all resources must be properly used in concert with one another to achieve desired results.
Reminders of the tools available to schools are disseminated throughout the state each summer.
There is a basketball court 5,000 miles from Sterling Heights with “MHL” painted on the center court.
It’s not the name of a local basketball league in the village where it is located – Siricino, Macedonia. Instead, it stands for Madison, Haleigh and Lola, the three daughters of longtime Michigan basketball coach, referee and athletic director Loren Ristovski.
“My dad loved going back (to Macedonia),” said Madison Ristovski. “He’s probably gone every summer since about 2017. His whole family still lives there. He loved going and visiting and seeing everyone.
“It was always a goal of his to give back to where he came from. He and Mom donated to the village to build a soccer field and basketball court with lights and everything. It was a pretty big deal. It’s something he wanted to do for them back home. We were very proud he did that.”
Loren Ristovski, athletic director for Taylor schools, died earlier this month while on leave to have surgery on his foot. It was a shock to his family, friends, and the Taylor community.
“It was a heavy blow,” said Matt Joseph, girls basketball coach at Utica Ford and a longtime friend of the Ristovski family. “It was like getting kicked in the gut. Basketball was his passion. Next to his family, basketball was definitely No. 1. He loved the game and all the intricacies of it. He loved seeing kids excel.”
Ristovski emigrated from Macedonia to Michigan when he was 9. He went to high school at Hamtramck St. Florian, where he excelled at basketball. He went to Wayne State University to get a degree in criminal justice and had plans to become a lawyer.
Before he could take the Law School Admission Test, however, basketball came calling.
“He started coaching at Henry Ford High School and Fuhrmann Middle School,” Madison said. “Once he realized how much he enjoyed coaching, he decided to go into education. He stayed the entire time. He never went to law school.”
Loren Ristovski became the head coach at Harper Woods but gave that up when his daughters were ready to start playing in high school.
“He gave up coaching varsity at Harper Woods so he could be at every one of my games,” Madison said.
He also coached them as youngsters, often teaming with Joseph to coach an AAU team.
“I met him when Madison was 5,” Joseph said. “He and I decided to put our daughters in the same parks and recreation team, and next thing you know we were coaching AAU.”
With Ristovski’s tutoring, Madison, Haleigh, and Lola all excelled at the game, each playing Division I college basketball after standout careers at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. In 2012, Liggett reached the Class C Final with all three starting. They combined for 55 of Liggett’s 57 points in the championship game, with Madison scoring 42 after earlier that week receiving the Miss Basketball Award.
Lola and Haleigh played at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Madison played at the University of Michigan. Today, Haleigh lives on the west side of the state and plays recreational basketball. Lola is a referee in the Catholic High School League as well as for the Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and also works area Division III college games.
Madison is a teacher and the varsity girls basketball coach at Sterling Heights Stevenson.
“He taught us the game when we were very, very young,” Madison said. “We grew up in the gym with him and watched him coach his team. He coached me my whole life. He was very instrumental – he taught us all those things you need to become an athlete, and more importantly the things you need to do to succeed in life.”
Her dad is the reason she became a coach.
“Watching my dad coach and seeing the impact he had on his high school athletes and even the kids in our church community – it inspired me to want to coach as well and give back like he did,” she said. “I watched him with my teammates and the impact he had on them. I thought it would be so cool if I could do the same for others.”
Loren Ristovski left a legacy at Taylor, too. School officials recounted several stories of how he balanced athletic budgets with the needs of student-athletes. He would lead fundraising efforts, created the Bitty Ball program for youth basketball players and cheerleaders and helped students become certified officials – and then would hire them to officiate games.
“He didn’t say no,” said Taylor boys basketball coach Chris Simons. “We made it work. We didn’t go out and ask people for a bunch of money. We would just do it. We all pulled together and made it work. Loren did everything he could to make things as pretty and presentable as he could with the budget we had.”
Ristovski also put on summer camps at both Taylor and at the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse in Sterling Heights, where he lived. He commuted about an hour to Taylor every day.
“He loved Taylor,” Madison said. “He loved who he worked with and the students. He included us, too. My mom would run the ticket table or do the scoreboard clock. I don’t know how many times I sold tickets for volleyball tournaments with him. He loved his people and loved having us there with him.”
Loren Ristovski, who played professional basketball in Europe during the late 1980s, ran well over 20 marathons in his life, including the Boston Marathon. He was a registered MHSAA official for 16 years, and in the weeks before his passing he refereed a varsity game in Rochester with his daughter, Lola.
“He looked at basketball, I think, differently than other people do,” Madison said. “He saw it as a way to have relationships with other people, to help people achieve their goals and to find meaningful relationships with others. It was more than just a game to him.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Loren Ristovski, far left, and wife Svetlana support their lineup of Division I basketball-playing daughters – from left: Madison, Haleigh and Lola. (Middle) Loren Ristovski heads an all-family officiating crew with Lola and his brother Dean Ristovski. (Below) The daughters’ initials “MHL” glow on the court the family funded in Macedonia. (Photos courtesy of Madison Ristovski.)