Michigan’s educational tradition of local control (which the MHSAA has respected) and Michigan educators’ distaste for unfunded mandates (which the MHSAA has consistently opposed) have had the result of keeping Michigan schools in neutral while schools in many other states have been in high gear to enhance training for interscholastic coaches.
Multiple levels of coaching education and even licensing or certification of coaches is now standard operating procedure in many other places. In contrast, Michigan has had almost no requirements for school-sponsored coaches.
However, in measured steps, change is coming to Michigan to promote an interscholastic coaching community better equipped to serve student-athletes, with special attention to health and safety:
As a result of an MHSAA Representative Council vote last March, all high school level assistant and subvarsity coaches must complete the same rules and risk minimization meeting requirement as high school varsity head coaches or, in the alternative, must complete a free health and safety course linked to or posted on MHSAA.com. This takes effect in 2014-15.
- In December, the Representative Council will vote on a proposal to require all high school varsity head coaches to hold valid (current) CPR certification. This would take effect in 2015-16.
- In March, the Council will vote on a proposal to require all persons who are hired for the first time as an MHSAA member high school varsity head coach after July 31, 2016, to have completed Level 1 or 2 of the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program.
Implementing these policies over the next three years will not advance Michigan schools to the head of the class with respect to assuring school coaches receive ongoing education in the critical coaching responsibilities dealing with participants’ health and safety. This will, however, move our schools from a near failing grade to average, from D- to perhaps C.
Ultimately, we will need to overcome legitimate concerns for adding to the difficulty of finding and affording coaches, and do much more to assure the programs we sponsor deserve the label “educational athletics.”
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 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.