VICKSBURG — Accepting an award on a national stage is an impressive feat for any athletic director.
But it was even more special for Vicksburg AD Mike Roy, who shared that stage with his mentor and good buddy.
While Roy was presented a Distinguished Service Award from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association in December, retired AD Mike Garvey was inducted into its Hall of Fame.
“This award from the NIAAA was exceptionally special to me because Mike got inducted the very same night into the NIAAA Hall of Fame,” Roy said.
“To be able to receive that award with someone who means so much to me and has guided me and been so influential in my career was the icing on the top, the cherry.”
Garvey said to be mentioned as Roy’s mentor “is an amazing compliment. When the Hall of Fame asked me to send some photos, I had to have him in one.”
The two men first connected 23 years ago when Garvey left Lawton High School for the AD’s job in Delton. Roy filled the Lawton position.
“Mike took me under his wing,” Roy said. “He introduced me to another great friend, Fred Smith.
“Just a couple guys who are awesome gentlemen who are recognized throughout the country.”
Garvey reflects that admiration.
“Mike Roy has been recognized in Michigan and it’s time the rest of the country knows how great he is.” Garvey said.
“It was wonderful to share the stage with him. He’s a high-energy person who attacks everything with vigor. He gets things done.”
Two years ago, Roy received the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush for service, prompting a Roy-like comment.
“With my joking, sarcastic system, I said to myself, ‘I must be getting old because I’m starting to get these awards and being recognized for it,’” he said.
“But, really, upon hearing it, you just sit back and are really taken aback and humbled by it.”
Rooted in Paw Paw
Roy started his athletic career in Paw Paw with football, basketball, baseball and track in high school.
After turning down offers from Division III schools, Roy accepted a football scholarship to University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which was an eye-opener.
“I found out very quickly when I got to UNLV to play football that I was no longer the big fish in the pond,” he said. “I was a very small fish in a very big pond.
“Going to UNLV forced me to grow up. Sometimes when reality smacks you in the face, it kind of wakes you up.”
That experience helps him guide high school athletes today.
“Looking back now, there are some things I wish I had done on the academic side of it,” he said. “I wasn’t a great student; I wasn’t a terrible student. I wish I had done better.
“My career goal at that time, wishful as it was, was to be an NFL player.”
At UNLV, Roy earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health with an endorsement in driver’s education and a master’s in instructional and curricular studies.
Once back in Michigan, Roy coached golf and strength and conditioning at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, taught strength classes at Western Michigan University and was an assistant to Kalamazoo College men’s basketball coach Joe Hacklin.
Roy applied for a job at Vicksburg High School — which he did not get.
Instead, he was hired to replace Garvey at Lawton, also teaching strength and conditioning, and coaching varsity basketball.
Three years later, Roy became AD at Vicksburg, a job he has had for the last 20 years.
Accolades began piling up, including the certified master athletic administrator designation from the NIAAA in 2005, Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association (MIAAA) Athletic Director of the Year in 2012, MIAAA president in 2019-20, NIAAA delegate at the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) national conference for 10 years and being named a finalist for National Athletic Director of the Year from the National High School Coaches Association.
At the NHSCA ceremony, Roy said he noticed one of the other finalists.
“One of the guys, when I looked, I said ‘Oh my gosh. He’s been an AD for 45 years.’
“Here I’m sitting with not even half that under my belt, wondering if I’m going to get 45 years in.”
Ever humble, Roy makes a point several times of mentioning that any award he receives is a culmination of efforts from a great support staff.
“I tell people in my joking way, ‘It’s my ugly face that gets the award, but when people come to Vicksburg they meet my ticket-taker or see my game management is on point,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be able to get half this stuff if I didn’t have the athletic secretary (Rhonda VanderKamp) I have. She’s phenomenal.”
VanderKamp, who has worked with Roy all 20 years, said they work well together.
As for sharing in any awards, “I’m honored but truly he deserves those awards,” she said. “We just complement each other.
“I’m so honored when I attend some of the conferences and they go around the room and ask you how many years you’ve been an athletic secretary and how many ADs have you been through. I can say only just one. It’s awesome.”
Showing off a great home
Under Roy, Vicksburg has hosted more than 100 MHSAA postseason events, and he takes pride in the workers and facilities.
“I’ve always been big on the appearance of our facilities,” he said. “Unfortunately, the outside community doesn’t get to see our library. They don’t get to see our science labs and all the other wonderful things we have going on in the building.
“When they come to Vicksburg, they’re drawing their assumptions on how they’re treated when they walk through the gate, how do the facilities look, are the trash cans overflowing, are things broken.”
He said when the MHSAA asks or looks for people to step up and host tournaments, “We have always been willing to do that. I ask our people and they say yes, we want to bring people to Vicksburg and show off our facilities.”
Roy also implements ideas he hears at various conferences.
“I always try to network and find out who’s doing something better than I’m doing and borrow that,” he said. “The neat thing about athletic directors in our association is we’re willing to share everything.
“We’re different than coaches who have a secret play or a playbook and don’t want anybody to know those plays.”
He noted that not everyone is cut out to be an athletic director.
“Most think all I do is sit around and eat popcorn, a hot dog and watch contests and how cool that is,” he said, laughing.
He said they do not see the contact with officials and support staff, refilling of concession supplies, setting up transportation to away games, notifying parents of any changes or problems and working on game schedules for next year.
As for non-AD duties, Roy spends time with his two children: Harper, a 5-foot-8 seventh grader whom he coaches on a 12-and-under softball team; and Ryker, a fourth grader involved in football, basketball, wrestling and baseball.
Doing things the right way
Roy said former Gull Lake AD Mike Foster helped craft his philosophy that high school sports are more than just winning.
“To me, in high school educational athletics, we’re here to grow the whole child and just not teach him how to win,” he said.
“I’m hiring my coaches who are going to be the best role models for my kids. We do want to win, because it’s important, but it’s not the ultimate goal for me.”
Speaking of coaches, Roy noted that his mentor is now an employee.
“Funny thing,” he said. “Mike Garvey’s my golf coach here. I always try to surround myself with some talented individuals.”
Garvey said Roy is the only reason he agreed to coach the boys golf team, and he would not consider doing it for anyone else.
“With his coaches, they’re a family and he’s like the patriarch who shows a lot of love and respect,” Garvey said.
Garvey was one of 10 inductees making up the 13th class of the NIAAA Hall of Fame honored in December. Garvey served as an athletic administrator for 24 years through 2018 with stops at Lawton, Delton Kellogg, Otsego and Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep. He received the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2015 and Charles E. Forsythe Award in 2020. He also was an assistant coach on two MHSAA Finals wrestling championship teams and as head coach led Lawton to the Class D title in 1990.
Garvey has been an active member of both the MIAAA and NIAAA and the Michigan Wrestling Coaches Association, and a member of the faculty for the NIAAA’s Leadership Training Institute while also serving as Michigan’s coordinator for the program. In retirement, he has continued to contribute to school sports in a variety of other ways as well including as a meet manager of the MHSAA’s Team Wrestling Finals at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo.
Among additional accolades at the state and national levels, Garvey received the NIAAA’s 2016 Distinguished Service Award and the George Lovich State Award of Merit in 2009 from the MIAAA.
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Vicksburg athletic director Mike Roy gives much credit to his secretary Rhonda VanderKamp, his assistant during the entirety of his two decades at the school. (Middle) Roy takes a minute to take a photo with Donald Duck during a conference in Orlando, Fla. (Below) Roy and his children Harper and Ryker await the presentation of his MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award. (Photos courtesy of Mike Roy.)
A first-of-its-kind mentorship program is greeting more than 100 first-time high school athletic directors who are officially beginning their tenures at Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools with the start of the 2023-24 school year.
The “AD Connection Program” has matched those first-year high school athletic directors with one of eight mentors who have recently retired from the field and will now provide assistance as those new administrators transition to this essential role in school sports.
A total of 102 first-year high school athletic directors are beginning at MHSAA schools, meaning a new athletic administrator will be taking over at nearly 14 percent of the 750 member high schools across the state. Athletic director turnover at MHSAA high schools has reached 10 percent or more annually over the last few years, and it’s hoped that this additional mentorship will support athletic directors adjusting to the high pace and responsibilities of the position for the first time.
The AD Connection Program will build on training received at the required in-service program all new athletic directors must attend each fall. There is also a strong connection to programming from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional development organization for the state’s athletic administrators.
"When you crystalize it, the AD Connection Program is an attempt for us to give a true year-long in-service to new athletic directors with people who have done it,” said MHSAA Assistant Director Brad Bush, who is coordinating the program and joined the MHSAA staff in January after more than two decades as an athletic administrator at Chelsea High School. “This also connects new ADs with a larger professional group, and it will culminate in March at the annual MIAAA conference, where there will be several face-to-face meetings with all ADs.
“These mentors are meant to become that first-year AD’s go-to person.”
Mentors will conduct frequent meetings with their cohorts. They also will meet monthly (or more) with each first-time athletic director individually via zoom, and at least once during the academic year face-to-face at the mentee’s school.
The eight mentors, noting their most recent schools as an athletic director, are Chris Ervin (most recently at St. Johns), Brian Gordon (Royal Oak), Sean Jacques (Calumet), Tim Johnston (East Grand Rapids), Karen Leinaar (Frankfort), Scott Robertson (Grand Haven), Meg Seng (Ann Arbor Greenhills) and Wayne Welton (Chelsea). Leinaar also will serve as the AD Connection Program’s liaison to the MIAAA, which she serves as executive director.
High school practices at MHSAA member schools may begin today, Monday Aug. 7, for the nine fall sports for which the MHSAA sponsors a postseason tournament. The AD Connection Program was approved by the MHSAA Representative Council during its annual Winter Meeting on March 24.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.