Casting Lines for Future Tournaments
August 12, 2016
By Jack Roberts
MHSAA Executive Director
The MHSAA is best known to the public for the tournaments it conducts to conclude the fall, winter and spring seasons each school year.
These tournaments, the first and largest program of the MHSAA, have survived the Vietnam War, the Korean conflict and two World Wars. They have survived the technology bubble, the housing collapse, the energy crisis and the Great Depression.
MHSAA tournaments existed at the dawn of aviation and at the time of our nation’s lunar landing. Popes, presidents and governors have changed and changed again and again, and MHSAA tournaments roll on year after year.
But the sense of tradition and permanence and inevitability of MHSAA tournaments doesn’t dissuade us from asking questions about our tournaments, even some of the most basic questions. Here are two.
I have long been and will always be an advocate for a Ryder Cup format for the MHSAA Golf Finals, and a team tennis approach to the MHSAA Tennis Finals; but 90 years of tradition is hard to overcome. Might this be a more exciting format? Could it be co-ed? Could it reverse the decline in boys tennis participation, and increase girls golf participation? Wouldn’t it be fun to try?
Periodically, the International Olympic Committee requires each of the designated Olympic sports to defend its status, to state its case why the sport should remain a part of the Olympic program. Then, after a series or votes that retain one sport at a time, the IOC drops the sport that makes the weakest case. It does so to make room for one of the previously unlisted sports that makes the best case for inclusion.
This would appear to keep the existing Olympic sports on their toes, and to keep the Olympic movement fresh and reflective of modern trends in sports.
While I would not enjoy the controversy, I can see the potential for some positive results if the MHSAA were to invoke the same policy for determining the 14 tournaments it will provide for girls and the 14 for boys.
This might cause us to consider more deeply what a high school sport should look like, or at least what an MHSAA tournament sport should stand for.
On the one hand, we might be inclined to drop tournaments for those sports that involve mostly non-faculty coaches and non-school venues, or require cooperative programs to generate enough participants to support a team, or resort almost entirely to non-school funding, or cater to individuals more than teams.
Or perhaps this process would cause policymakers to forget traditional thinking and ask: “In this day and age, should we shake off traditional notions of sport and consider more where modern kids are coming from?” That might mean fewer team sports and more individual sports, more “extreme” sports like snowboarding and skateboarding, and more lifetime sports, meaning not just golf and tennis and running sports, but also fishing and even shooting sports.
Currently, MHSAA policy states that the MHSAA will consider sponsorship of a tournament series for any sport which 64 member schools conduct on an interscholastic basis as a result of action by the governing boards of those schools.
Should the only question be how many schools sponsor a sport, or must an activity also have certain qualities and/or avoid certain “defects?” What should an MHSAA tournament sport look like and stand for?
Bristling from criticism that his association is a money-grabbing exploiter of children, my counterpart in another state said, “If we were running our programs just to make money, we would do very many things very differently.” I knew exactly what he meant.
Because we care about the health and welfare of students, because we mean what we say that the athletic program needs to maximize the ways it enhances the school experience while minimizing academic conflicts, and because we try to model our claim that no sport is a minor sport when it comes to its potential to teach young people life lessons, we operate our programs in ways that make promoters, marketers and business entrepreneurs laugh, cry or cringe.
If money were the only object, we would seed and select sites to assure the teams that attracted the most spectators had the best chance to advance in our tournaments, regardless of the travel for any team or its fan base. If money were the only object, we would never schedule two tournaments to overlap and compete for public attention, much less tolerate three or four overlapping events. If money were the only object, we would allow signage like NASCAR events and promotions like minor league baseball games.
Those approaches to event sponsorship may not be all wrong; they’re just not all right for us. And we will live with the consequences of our belief system.
During a typical school year, more than 20 percent of the MHSAA’s 2,097 District, Regional and Final tournaments lose money. Not a single site in golf, skiing or tennis makes a single penny. In no sport did every District, Regional and Final site have revenue in excess of direct expenses.
In fact, in only three sports – boys and girls basketball and football – is revenue so much greater than direct expenses overall that it helps to pay for all the other tournaments in which the MHSAA invests.
That’s right: invests. When we present our budget to our board, we talk about the MHSAA’s investment in providing tournament opportunities in all those sports and all those places that cannot sustain the cost of those events on their own. How much is this investment worth to students, schools and society?
These two are core questions that require our focus far in advance of talk about scheduling, site selection, seeding and the myriad matters that too often hijack our time and attention.
Bedford Sophomore Powers Up with 23 Homers, Just Getting Started
By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com
June 7, 2023
TEMPERANCE – Here’s a warning for softball teams facing Temperance Bedford the next couple of seasons: Intentionally walking Aubrey Hensley only gives her more confidence.
The Kicking Mules sophomore just finished her season with 23 home runs in 39 games, shattering school and Monroe County records. She remembers the home runs from the season that ended in the Division 1 District Finals, but she also remembers the walks.
“Our first game of the season, my first at-bat, I didn’t even get a swing in,” Hensley said. “As a hitter, it plays with your mind, but it also gives you confidence. If I go to the plate and they aren’t even willing to pitch to me, that gives me even more confidence. The next time up, I’m really going to look for my pitch.”
Hensley saw plenty of pitches she liked this season. She hit just a tick below .500 (61 hits in 124 at-bats), with seven doubles, five triples and nearly two dozen homers. They were pretty much split between the newly renovated Kicking Mules field in Temperance and road games.
Her most memorable home run was at Ypsilanti Lincoln.
“I usually have pretty good games at their field,” she said. “This year I hit a home run and hit the building which is behind the fence. That was a good one. I liked that watching and hearing that one hit.”
Hensley grew up in Toledo and moved across the state line in fifth grade. By then she was already involved in northwest Ohio travel softball programs.
“Softball kind of came naturally for me,” she said. “I loved to go to the field with my mom (Amanda) or my brother or just hit off the tee. I just have a mentality that I’m a good hitter and I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
Prior to her freshman season, Mules coach Marla Gooding, a first-grade teacher at Bedford, sent Hensley into the weight room.
“I was not expecting to hit home runs going into my freshman season,” Hensley said. “I didn’t really know what to expect.
“When I was little, I wasn’t always a power hitter. I would hit a few doubles or triples and get into the ball some. I worked and put in time in the weight room, especially going into the freshman year. I think that really contributed to my home run hitting. Coach had us in the weight room during the season a little bit. It helps to develop your body to be a power hitter.”
With the power in place, Hensley began concentrating on swinging through the ball.
“I don’t expect to hit a home run every time, but I go up to the plate thinking it’s possible,” she said. “I’m swinging to get through the ball and just drive it somewhere. I’m not hitting for contact. If you just go up hitting for contact, you are swinging lighter, and if it doesn’t go far, you start doubting yourself. I just go up and swing to drive the ball.”
Countless hours hitting off the tee and facing batting practice pitchers helped her fine-tune her swing.
“I don’t like to get down on myself, because then it snowballs onto the field or another at-bat,” she said. “Short memory is one thing we really wanted to work on this year. I think I applied that more. It’s difficult sometimes if you aren’t getting the pitches that you want or aren’t producing. I just try to go up there with some swag and get the job done.”
Gooding called her a dream to coach.
“She’s a power-five softball player,” she said. “And the greatest kid ever. Seriously, a workhorse and team-first mentality.”
On the field, she is the Bedford catcher. She didn’t commit an error all season.
Hensley was a pitcher at a young age but loved the transition to behind the plate.
“When I got behind the plate, I loved it,” she said. “It’s like being a general out there controlling the whole field. I get to see everyone and everything. I put in a lot of work when I was little. I started with the basics and just advanced from there. I’m pretty dedicated to being the best I can behind the plate for my pitcher.”
Hensley will balance her summer of babysitting, playing basketball for the Mules in June and a busy summer travel softball season that will take her around Ohio, Kansas and Tennessee. She helped the Kicking Mules set a school record for wins with 23 and win a District title in basketball last winter.
Hensley isn’t the only Bedford softball player to show power this season. As a team, Bedford hit 51 home runs, including 12 by teammate Payton Pudlowski. That is one of the reasons Hensley isn’t simply intentionally walked time after time.
“We have some solid pieces behind her, and the two girls in front of her got on base all of the time,” Gooding said. “It was hard for other teams to do that.”
With 23 home runs this season, Hensley’s put her name among the top five all-time single seasons in state history. The record is 29 by Kali Heivilin from Three Rivers in 2021.
With 34 career home runs, she is almost in the top 25.
Hensley isn’t concerned about records right now, except for one thing. She wants to put up a number that, by the time she graduates, is out of this world.
As she tells it, “I want to push the record so far that no one can touch it by the time I’m done with my career at Bedford.”
She might already have.
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) Bedford’s Aubrey Hensley prepares to drive a pitch this season. (Middle) Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. (Photos by Christine Kwiatkowski.)