The Changing Face(book?) of Coaching

March 26, 2013

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

From online video exchange programs such as to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the face of coaching and communicating with teams is ever-changing. How much is too much, and how are the new tools being used by the old guard?

With increasing frequency, today’s coaches are turning to technology to assist in their endeavors, particularly in video review and data compilation, as the number of programs available to them seems to grow on a daily basis.

Among the recent leaders, seems to have won the favor of football coaches across the state, reducing video exchange and study to a couple clicks of the mouse.

Several members of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council report that their football coaches use the web-based program, and even local officials associations are using it for film study.

Similar programs are making it easier for today’s coaches to analyze data and compile statistics as well.

“The dispensing of information is much quicker than it used to be,” said Marshall bowling coach Sue Hutchings. “We use a scoring software for our stats.”

In more “visual” sports such as competitive cheer, online video is now essential.

“Video playback and feedback to athletes has helped the sport 10-fold,” said Middleville Thornapple-Kellogg coach Abby Kanitz.

In some cases, coaches are taking the lead on such initiatives.

“I run the MISCA (Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association) website and receive plenty of positive feedback about us posting meet results and top times reports,” said Bloomfield Hills Andover coach David Zulkiewski. “I also visit weekly. Since I run the MISCA website, I want to make sure I have accurate and up-to-date information posted.”

Technology has also made the world a bit “greener” even in the small corner that is interscholastic athletics. From the required MHSAA rules meetings moving to an online format, to volumes of data now stored on flash drives rather than in file cabinets, coaches are realizing savings in both time and cost.

“The current state of track and field and cross country is so much more manageable than when I began,” said East Kentwood’s Dave Emeott. “I remember compiling actual papers from all over the state to keep track of the opposition, and now thanks to we have this access at the tip of our fingers.  These programs have also replaced nights spent inputting data and record-keeping.  I am sure I have replaced all that time elsewhere, but it is probably spent with kids and not with data.”

With the saturation and availability of these reports around the clock also comes temptation for those who are driven, and even obsessed, with such numbers. Coaches can rank near the top of that list.

“Technology can be extremely helpful and time-saving for coaches and teachers,” said Grand Haven wrestling coach James Richardson. “But,  the disadvantage is the coaches and athletes have a more difficult time getting away from the sport, as we have access to so much information, and others have more access to us. This can lead to too much time being devoted to our sport.”

It also might even take some of the fun out of the actual competition.

“I think the one negative side of technology is the lack of the unknown,” Emeott said. “There was a day when we would enter a meet and not really know how the day would turn out.  Now I have most meets scored within 10 points the day before we arrive.”

At times, such advance information also can lead to overconfidence heading into competition.

“Currently the MHSAA Final draw is posted online, and my players often see it and draw their own conclusions before I have a chance to talk to them about it,” said Allegan tennis coach Gary Ellis. “In the past, I was able to present their draw in the light in which I wanted them to see it.”

Another side effect is the indirect push to play beyond high school.

“There is a lot more social promotion and glamourizing of the athletes,” said Mike Van Antwerp, Holt lacrosse coach. “The recruiting pressure has increased tremendously, which is causing kids to commit earlier and go to great lengths to have a chance at being recruited.”

The world has indeed become a smaller, more familiar place. Not only can students and coaches learn pertinent statistics relating to any given opponent, they can also learn personal information about their competition through the deluge of social media vehicles.

It is in this realm where the greatest divide exists between coaches and their athletes when the subject of technology comes up.

Several members of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council indicate that their coaches do not use social media to assist with the daily activities involved with their sport, while others are but only on a limited basis.

It’s not that the coaches don’t know about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or the other platforms. More likely, they are all too well versed in the abuses of such mediums by young adults not yet ready to understand the lasting ramifications of a random tweet or damaging photo.

“We have specific rules for use of cell phones at practice, games, in the locker room, etc.,” said Diane Laffey, athletic director and coach at Warren Regina. “We also have a form for parents to sign if they want the coach to be able to text their daughter about practice or game cancellations or changes.  We stress that the texting only be for necessary things, and the parents are to give permission.”

Safeguarding against the misuse of handheld devices is becoming as commonplace as handing out uniforms prior to the season.

“By rule, our  players aren’t allowed to bring electronic devices to the court with them.  We restrict cell phone usage at practice,” said Portage Central tennis coach Peter Militzer. “Players must ‘friend’ the coach on either Facebook or Twitter, and I monitor their activities to make sure their language and behavior meets our standards. We restricted a player’s opportunity to play on varsity last season due to excessive use of crude language and an offensive user name on Twitter.”

PHOTO: This is a screenshot from, an online service used by high school football coaches for video analysis and archiving. 

Championship Experience from Coach's Point of View Unimaginable, Unforgettable

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 4, 2024

WYOMING – As the final buzzer sounded, it was all I could’ve imagined – and more.

West Michigan

In the weeks leading up to March 16 and the Division 4 championship game, I experienced every emotion possible as I envisioned what it would feel like to be an assistant coach on the bench at Michigan State’s Breslin Center as the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian boys basketball team achieved its ultimate goal.

In my first year as the junior varsity coach at Tri-unity, I had been on the varsity bench for a majority of the season, assisting legendary coach Mark Keeler and fellow assistants Brent Voorhees, Bob Przybysz and Mike Kaman.

I was there encouraging, motivating and supporting the varsity team. It was a role I embraced, and had become accustomed to over my almost 30 years coaching high school basketball.

I started coaching in 1995 as Jim Ringold gave me my first opportunity as the freshmen girls coach at Wyoming Kelloggsville High School. I would then coach Kelloggsville’s freshmen boys team for eight seasons, while also coaching the freshmen girls at Grandville High School. I would also coach the junior varsity teams at both schools.

I love coaching. I have a passion for it. I’ve always enjoyed getting the most out of my players while creating a bond between player and coach.

When girls basketball season moved from fall to winter joining the boys in 2007-08, I stayed at Grandville. I spent 21 seasons there before stepping down.

I still wanted to coach, and I heard that the Tri-unity junior varsity position was available. I had always respected and liked Keeler and was excited for the prospect of joining a perennial powerhouse.

I didn’t really know about Tri-unity growing up in the Wyoming Park school district. But as a young kid, I would rush home and eagerly await the afternoon delivery of the Grand Rapids Press. I would quickly find the sports page and read it from front to back, hoping one day to see my byline.

I began writing for the Press’ sports department in 1997. It was my dream job. And that’s also when I first started covering Tri-unity boys basketball.

I remember watching eventual NBA all-star Chris Kaman, along with Bryan Foltice and others play for this little Christian school and have unbridled success under Keeler.

MHSAA Tournament runs became the norm for the Defenders. They won their first Finals title in 1996, and they would claim four more over the next 26 years. They also had six runner-up finishes.

Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action.I was sitting on media row writing for in 2022 when Brady Titus led Tri-unity to its fifth state championship.

I never thought that two years later I would be on the coaching staff as the Defenders pursued another one. But there I was.

I knew this year’s team had the potential to be special.

Tri-unity had returned four of its five starters from a year ago, after suffering a heart-breaking two-point loss to Munising in the Division 4 Final.

Eight seniors were on the roster. The team had a mix of talented guard play, senior leadership, size and depth. We had shooters and we played great defense, a trademark of Keeler’s teams.

This was the year, and that heaped lofty expectations on Keeler and the team. It was basically “state championship or bust.” Anything less would be considered a disappointment.

Keeler wanted it badly, and I knew the players did as well. I think they felt the pressure at times of living up to the expectations that had been set.

We had several lopsided wins, but also had a few tough losses to Division 2 and Division 3 teams – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Wyoming Lee, Grandville Covenant Christian and Schoolcraft – all talented teams that I think made us better despite falling short.

As the postseason started, there was anxiety and excitement.

We were one of the favorites, but it wouldn’t be easy. We would have to earn each of the seven victories needed to win it all.

First came a District title, but then we had to play a quality Fowler team in its home gym in the Regional Semifinal. This was a game we knew would be a challenge – and it was.

We led by only one at halftime after a 7-0 run to end the second quarter. The score was tied 33-33 in the fourth quarter before senior Lincoln Eerdmans made a key 3-pointer to spark our victory.

As we went through the handshake line, several Fowler players said, “Good luck in the Finals.”

Our defense played extremely well in the Regional Final and state Quarterfinal to secure our team another trip to the Breslin.

St. Ignace was our opponent in the Semifinal, and we had to face a senior guard who could do it all – Jonny Ingalls. He lived up to the hype. He was good, and we didn’t have any answer for him in the first half. We trailed by one, only to fall behind by seven late in the third quarter.

Was this the end? Were we going to fall one game short of our goal?

Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. We were down by five points in the fourth quarter, but junior guard Keaton Blanker, and others, rose to the occasion. We rallied to win a tight one, and now we were one win away from a Division 4 title.

The night before the championship game, we stayed at a hotel in East Lansing as we had the first game of the day at 10 a.m. We had a team dinner, and the players seemed relaxed and eager to close out the season the way they had intended.

There was one thing that worried me. We were playing Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. A team we had played in the second game of the season and defeated by 30 points.

Would we be overconfident? I had no idea. They were a different team now, but so were we. Anything could happen.

Keeler gave a spirited and emotional pregame speech. In last year’s loss to Munising, he felt like the team played not to lose, and this season his big thing was “I want to win.” He said it to every starter that Saturday morning during the final moments in the locker room before tipoff, asking all five individually to say it back – which they did, the first one quietly but followed by teammates replying louder and louder as everyone got fired up and “I want to win” rang through the locker room. I think it inspired all of us.

After a competitive first quarter, we started to find our rhythm and expanded the lead. We were ahead by double-digits at the half, and a state title was within our grasp. Senior Wesley Kaman buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to give us a 20-point cushion. It was at that point I knew we were going to win.

All five starters reached double-figure scoring, led by Jordan VanKlompenberg with 19 points and Owen Rosendall with 14. That balance was intentional and a successful sign for our team all season.

The exhilaration of winning was intoxicating. I loved watching the boys celebrate something they had worked so hard to accomplish. I will never forget their faces. I looked to my right from my seat on the bench and watched them running onto the court, just wearing their joy. They were just elated.

I was so happy for Keeler, a devout Christian who is respected by so many people in high school basketball circles. I learned so much from him this season. The way he approaches each game, his competitiveness. He instills his strong faith in his players and understands that the game of basketball is a bridge to a higher purpose.

Keeler is the fourth-winningest coach in state boys basketball history with a record of 694-216, and will be the winningest active coach next winter as all-time leader Roy Johnston retired from Beaverton at the end of this season.

The tournament run was one of the best coaching experiences I have had, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of a state championship season.

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) The Wyoming Tri-unity Christian bench, including the author (far right) and head coach Mark Keeler (middle), celebrate a 3-pointer late in the Defenders’ Division 4 championship win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. (Middle) Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action. (Below) Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)