By John E. “Jack” Roberts
MHSAA Executive Director
When parents send their children to our programs of school sports, most parents have one hope above all others.
More than they want a winning team, even more than they want their child to get playing time and score points, most Moms and Dads want (and many of them pray) that their child will be safe in our care.
I've seen many Moms (including the mother of my two children) gasp for breath and grasp the arm of the person next to them when one of their children took a tumble in soccer or was being twisted to some extreme in wrestling.
Those parents who have the one hope above all other hopes – that their child is safe in our care – have almost every right to expect that their children are, indeed, safe in our care.
Not all accidents can be avoided; and no sport can be entirely injury-free. Those realities mean that people in charge – rules makers, administrators, coaches and officials – must take every reasonable, realistic precaution to minimize accidents and injuries.
With the right policies and procedures, and coaches and officials committed above all else to the well-being of student-athletes, we can reduce head injuries and eliminate serious heat illness; we can get CPR and AEDs in use faster; and we can provide environments free of bullying and hazing.
I know that all of us want programs like this for our own children. We must do our utmost to provide nothing less for the children entrusted to us by other parents.
During the next two weeks, Second Half will continue feature stories from this fall's issue of "benchmarks" centered on the MHSAA's focus on health and safety. Click here for the first installment, "Safety Blitz - Taking a Healthy Approach to Sports."
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.