Since the so-called heyday of school sports in the 1950s, when you could count on more talk in a community about its few high school teams than about all the college and professional sports teams in the country combined, some things have improved – diversity and safety, for example; but some things have not met the high ideals hoped for in educational athletics.
During the explosive growth period of school sports in the 1970s and 1980s, when girls programs were introduced or reintroduced to schools and well-established community programs were added to the school sports curriculum, schools in almost every state had to backpedal from the ideal that only trained educators – certified teachers – could coach interscholastic athletic teams. (In Michigan, except for two years in the mid 1950s when certified teachers were required, the rules only urge that coaches be certified teachers.)
While the number of sports and levels of teams have greatly expanded these past five or six decades, the coaching pool within the faculty of a school district has not. Furthermore, teachers’ salaries improved so much that coaching stipends became less necessary to supplement teachers’ incomes, so teachers “volunteered” less readily to serve as coaches for a second and third sport.
Moreover, the coaching demands for one sport increased out of season, interfering with a person’s availability to help coach second and third sports during the school year. This was commonplace in the sports that moved from the community into schools, but the out of season demands have increased significantly for traditional school sports as well.
There is irony that community youth sports programs not only have provided school districts with a pool of informed and interested people to serve as coaches, but they have also increased the demands on coaches so much out of season that coaches must specialize in a single sport and therefore are less available to assist with the many different sports and levels of teams that school districts struggle to provide students.
It is estimated now that more than half of all high school coaches do not work in the school building where they coach, which can create communications challenges for schools. A smaller but growing number of high school coaches do not work at all in the field of education, which can create philosophical problems as well. Not always, of course; in fact, many nonfaculty coaches are a rich and increasingly indispensible blessing for school sports.
The St. Ignace girls basketball teams is off to a 2-0 start – and great starts and finishes certainly have been the norm over the last 25 seasons under the leadership of head coach Dorene Ingalls and her assistant, and husband, Doug.
Tuesday’s season-opening win over Brimley made Dorene Ingalls 500-94 beginning her 25th season guiding the program – now 501-94 after Thursday’s 63-27 victory over Boyne City. She entered this season 16th on the state list for most girls basketball coaching victories, and seventh among active coaches.
For all 501 wins, Doug Ingalls has been by her side as an assistant within the program – while also serving as boys varsity basketball coach from 1992-2008, 2011-16 and again currently in the fifth season of his latest tenure. His Saints also have opened 2-0, and he has a 355-175 record leading the boys program.
The Ingalls have led the girls program to five MHSAA Finals championships, most recently in Class D in 2015, and four runner-up finishes, most recently in Division 4 in 2019.
Dorene Ingalls received the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Award in 2021.
PHOTOS (Top) Doug and Dorene Ingalls, far left and right, respectively, take a photo with 2003 Miss Basketball Krista Clement. (Middle) Dorene and Doug Ingalls. (Photos by David Latva.)