By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor
A survey of MHSAA member schools was conducted in the fall of 2014 aimed to determine opinions for and against a myriad of out-of-season coaching/contact period topics within the school year.
Below are some of the summaries drawn from that survey, plus a map of zones referred to in a number of points.
Survey Summary and Highlights
The larger the school, the higher the percentage of students who are involved in organized non-school sports.
The Detroit metro area (Zone 3) has the highest percentage of respondents in each of two groups in which the highest percentage of students are involved in organized non-school sports ... the 60 to 80% and 40 to 60% groups. The Grand Rapids area (Zone 6) ranks second.
The northern Lower Peninsula (Zone 7) and the Upper Peninsula (Zone 8) have the highest percentage of respondents in the group in which the lowest percentage of students are involved in organized non-school sports . . . the 0 to 20% group. This is also true of Zones 1, 2 and 5, although less dramatically.
In the majority of schools, coaches work with students out of season under the three- or four-player rule for a few weeks just before the season. This is generally true regardless of school classification or geographic zone.
In nearly 80% of schools, the frequency of coaches working with students out of season under the three- or four-player rule is one or two days a week.
100% of schools that sponsor basketball hold open gyms for basketball. Two-thirds of volleyball schools hold volleyball open gyms. Half of lacrosse schools hold lacrosse open gyms. Open gyms in baseball, softball and soccer occur in 40 to 45% of responding schools. Open gyms are less common for other sports.
More than half of all schools conduct open gyms for only a few weeks, just before the season begins.
In 85% of schools, the frequency of open gyms is one or two days a week.
The multi-sport athlete is common in schools of every classification, but more common in Class C and D schools than in Class A and B.
The multi-sport athlete is common in schools of every geographical zone, but more common in Zones 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8 than in Zones 3, 5 and 6.
Two-thirds of schools do not ban athletes from out-of-season workouts while in-season in a different school sport. Permitting weightlifting is most common (84%), then three- or four-player workouts (70%), then conditioning (66%) and open gyms (65%), and finally non-school competitions (57%).
Single-sport coaches are more common in smaller schools than larger (perhaps because fewer sports are sponsored in smaller schools).
For one question, schools were asked to rate ideas from 1 (I like the concept) to 6 (I do not like the concept). Average would be 3.5.
More than 60% of schools favor a no-contact period for all out-of-season sports at the start of every other sport’s season. (Support ranges from 55% for Class A schools to 65% for Class D schools and from 56% for Zones 1 and 3 to 71% for Zone 7.)
More than 72% of schools favor (in conjunction with a no-contact period) a defined contact period out of season. Support ranges from 69% for Class B schools to 76% for Class D schools and from 64% in Zone 6 to 88% in Zone 1.
Two-thirds of schools favor setting a limit on the number of contact days for out-of-season coaching. Support ranges from 63% for Class A schools to 72% for Class C schools and from 50% for Zone 2 to 73% for Zone 1.
More than 68% of schools favor setting a limit on the number of contact days in a week. There’s almost no difference based on school class. Support ranges from 58% in Zone 6 to 76% in Zone 5.
Counting days more than players – that is, allowing practice with any number of students for a defined number of days over a period of time – is favored by more than 72% of schools. Support ranges from 69% for Class D to 76% for Class A and from 59% for Zone 5 to 76.5% for Zone 3.
The least support of any idea surveyed was for allowing scrimmage competition (allowing the coach to coach any number of students from that coach’s school in competition against individuals not enrolled in that school).
More than 62% of schools favor a rule that would allow a school coach to coach a non-school team within a defined contact period; that is, a team with students from the coach’s school (and possibly other schools too), but not supported with school funds, administration, insurance, uniforms, etc. Support ranged from 58% for Class C schools to 68% for Class B schools. Support ranged from 54% for Zone 2 to 69% for Zone 6.
This is the most popular proposal (doesn’t preclude others being approved too): 84% of schools favor removing the phrase “under one roof” from Regulation II, Section 11(H) 2 a (see Tuesday's report). Support ranged from 80% for Class D schools to 86% for Class C schools and from 78% in Zone 2 to 89% for Zone 5.
Removing the portion of Interpretation 237 which prohibits setting up rotations that would allow a coach to work with dozens of players who rotate to his/her direct attention in groups of three or four is favored by 69% of schools, but with a distinct large school vs. small school difference of opinion: Class A (80.5% favorable), Class B (72.9%), Class C (61.3%) and Class D (61.7%).
Denny White brought quite a bit to the Marysville and St. Clair communities.
In 1961, as a junior in high school, White was part of the first team to bring a football state title to Marysville.
Fifty years later, as an assistant coach, he played a vital role in bringing St. Clair its first MHSAA Finals title in baseball.
During the years in between, and decade after, White brought his knowledge of and passion for those sports to hundreds of student athletes.
But most recently, he brought the two communities together.
This past Friday night, the rival schools played for the Denny White Trophy, an award created to honor the late coach and connect the two communities where he was most revered.
“I’m so happy with all the support that has been around the project,” said Brady Beedon, a family friend who helped to create the trophy and was in the booth calling Friday night’s game for Get Stuck On Sports. “It’s the least we could’ve done for a man who helped so many athletes. His legacy deserves to be preserved.”
In a fitting tribute to White, who died Jan. 22 of this year following a long battle with cancer, the two teams played a hard-fought game at East China Stadium, with White’s alma mater Marysville coming away with a 25-20 victory.
Both teams featured players who had been coached by White at some point in one or both of the sports, as his time on the bench lasted through the fall of 2022.
That season, he coached the JV B football team at Marysville. Most recently before that, he had been the varsity baseball coach at St. Clair from 2015-21.
“Not much can unify rivals, but Coach White’s influence goes beyond that rivalry,” Marysville football coach Derrick Meier said at a press conference unveiling the trophy. “He’s affected thousands of local athletes. … It is awesome that someone had such an influence across the board with all local athletes (in multiple) sports. I contacted him my first year coaching varsity, and he was not willing to leave where he was at. I called him three subsequent years; he graciously declined. The last year he did accept, we added a JV B team, his wisdom and knowledge went well beyond just coaching on the field. We’re all lucky for his influence.
“Heroes get remembered. Coach White will be remembered.”
White was a 1963 graduate of Marysville, who then attended Ferris State and Central Michigan. His coaching journey did not begin in the area where he grew up, however, as he coached baseball and football at Newaygo High School before coming to St. Clair.
He spent 35 years in the Saints athletic program, coaching baseball and multiple levels of football.
Much of his time was spent as the pitching coach for St. Clair for coaches Richie Mallewitz and Bill McElreath. That included the 2011 season, when his pitching staff included current major leaguer Jacob Cronenworth, who now plays second base for the San Diego Padres.
Also on that staff were Joel Seddon, who was drafted twice – once out of high school and again after college – and would go on to be the closer at South Carolina; and Jared Tobey, who pitched at Wayne State and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, playing four years in their minor league system.
While White coached nearly 1,000 baseball games in his career, he was involved with more than just high school sports. He also coached a 13-year-old Little League team to a state title and the semifinals of the Great Lakes Regional in 2015.
No matter the level, White poured all he had into coaching, and that included his final season on the sidelines at Marysville, just months prior to his passing.
“Every single kid that he touched with that team, you could just tell, gravitated toward him immediately,” said Travis Disser, who coached with White that final year at Marysville. “His lessons and his light-hearted humor are just something that you can’t replace, or ever hope to. I was lucky enough to learn pitching from Coach White when I was a younger kid, as well. He was the exact same Denny White as he was all those years ago, as he was last year during his battle with cancer. Coach White was a warrior in every sense of the term. His lessons, both on the field and off the field from him, are something that I’ll never, ever forget.”
The idea to create the trophy honoring White came about not long after his death, as Beedon worked with Meier, former St. Clair athletic director Denny Borse and St. Clair assistant football coach T.J. Schindler to create and design the trophy.
The final product is a two-tiered trophy topped with a pair White’s hats – one from St. Clair, the other from Marysville – that have been bronzed. It includes the years in which he won his state titles at his respective schools, and a passage about his life. There is also room to list the yearly winners, as it is planned to represent the rivalry and shared respect for White in the two communities for years to come.
“Whether it was Little League kids over the last 20 years, or some of the football players and baseball players that he coached over the decades that he coached, all of them when they get together have great stories and fondness for all the memories that (White and his fellow coaches) helped them create,” said Sandy Rutledge, the current St. Clair athletic director and a longtime friend and colleague of White. “I think it’s awesome that now as we play for this trophy every year, it will give our coaches a chance to kind of explain who Coach was. The next generation, maybe they didn’t even know him, will know that he is a legend, and he’ll always be remembered.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) From left: St. Clair’s Larry Wawryzniak, Liam Nesbitt and Peyton Ellis, Denny White’s wife Karen White, and Marysville’s Bryce Smith, Carter Saccucci and Caz Carty stand with the first-year traveling trophy celebrating Denny White’s coaching career. (Middle) White was a mainstay in the area’s sports community for more than six decades. (Below) The trophy celebrates his contributions to both schools and will list the winners of their annual football game. (Trophy photos courtesy of Brady Beedon. Headshot courtesy of the White family.)