Battle Creek St. Philip’s Vicky Groat and Midland High’s Eric Albright both have devoted themselves to Michigan school sports for multiple decades – and both continue to lead as highly-successful coaches while also serving in multiple administrative roles within their schools and as important voices in statewide leadership as well.
To recognize their dedication and far-reaching contributions to educational athletics, Groat and Albright have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2023.
Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to school athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to people who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 32nd year of the award.
Groat will enter this fall’s girls volleyball season with a career coaching record of 1,240-304-95, ranking seventh on the MHSAA coaching wins list for her sport. She took over for her mother, equally-legendary Sheila Guerra, for the 1997-98 winter season, stepped away briefly after her second year, and returned to lead the program again in 2000-01. Groat has guided the Tigers to 14 MHSAA Finals championships, including a record nine straight in Class D from Winter 2006-07 through Fall 2014 (volleyball moved to the fall with the 2007-08 school year), and most recently guided St. Philip to back-to-back Division 4 championships to cap the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
A 1985 graduate of the school, Groat is entering her 17th year as the athletic director and also took over as principal on an interim basis in December 2014 and then permanently to begin the 2016-17 school year. She previously had served as the school’s student services director and as an assistant principal. She also served on the MHSAA Representative Council from 2016-20 and is a longtime leader as part of the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA).
Groat is a member of the Battle Creek St. Philip Athletic and MIVCA Halls of Fame. She was named Michigan High School Coaches Association volleyball Coach of the Year in 2009, and the national Coach of the Year for her sport by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in 2021. She earned her bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University in 1989 and master’s from Fort Hays State University (Kan.) in 2019.
“Vicky Groat has established herself as one of the most accomplished volleyball coaches in the state and also wears multiple difficult hats so well as the athletic director and principal,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Her passion for St. Philip school and its students is evident at every turn, and her desire to help all students excel has been a great benefit to her school and throughout Michigan.”
Albright came to Michigan from Minnesota, graduating from Royalton High School in 1992 and then Hamline University with his bachelor’s degree in 1996. He began at Midland High as a teacher in 1997 and continued in the classroom through 2013-14, adding the varsity baseball coaching job in 2003 and building a 520-199 record over the last two decades while also leading the Chemics to seven league and four District titles and a Division 1 Semifinals appearance in 2018. He became the school’s athletic director in 2010 and serves as an assistant principal as well.
Midland has hosted various MHSAA postseason events under Albright’s direction, including Finals tennis, Semifinals in soccer and football and Quarterfinals for basketball, softball and volleyball. Albright has served on seven committees or task forces for the Association and as part of the Representative Council since 2019.
Albright also is beginning his tenure as president of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and is a Leadership Training Course instructor for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA). He received a master’s degree from Central Michigan University in 2000 and earned a certified athletic administrator designation from the NIAAA in 2013. Albright also has been an MHSAA registered official in basketball and baseball over the last two decades, most recently in both sports since 2018-19. He worked as a professional baseball umpire in the Gulf Coast League during the 1997 season before beginning his tenure at Midland.
“Eric Albright is a leader in school-based athletics across Michigan with his work with the MIAAA and MHSAA, and he’s become a go-to person for other athletic directors statewide,” Uyl said. “He has worked tirelessly to provide a wealth of guidance and vision, continuously demonstrating his passion for educational athletics.”
PHOTOS Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball coach Vicky Groat steps on the court to receive her team's Division 4 championship trophy in 2021, and Midland's Eric Albright (far right) confers with his pitcher during the 2018 Division 1 Baseball Semifinals.