NFHS Honors 4 of Michigan's Finest

January 14, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three longtime Michigan high school coaches and one of the state’s most highly-respected athletic directors were recognized Wednesday by the National Federation of State High School Associations Coaches Association.

Leland volleyball coach Laurie Glass, Trenton softball coach John Biedenbach and Traverse City Central boys track and field coach John Lober were named Coaches of the Year in their respective sports. Longtime Troy athletic director Jim Feldkamp – currently an instructor for the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program – was honored as this year’s National Coach Contributor Award winner as an individual “who has gone above and beyond and who exemplifies the highest standards of sportsmanship, ethical conduct and moral character.”

Feldkamp served one year as a teacher and coach of three sports at Romeo in 1970-71 before moving on to New Baltimore Anchor Bay, where he taught, coached varsity boys basketball for 14 years, subvarsity basketball for five seasons and served as athletic director at the high school.

He moved on to West Bloomfield as director of health, physical education and athletics in 1985, then became citywide athletic director for the Troy School District from 1988-2004. Feldkamp consulted at Detroit University Prep from 2007-12, then served as district athletic director of L’Anse Creuse Public Schools during the 2012-13 school year.

Feldkamp received the MHSAA’s Charles E. Forsythe Award in 2005 for his outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community after retiring from the Troy district, where he was responsible for 178 teams, more than 4,800 athletes and 315 coaches. He also received the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award and has served as a CAP instructor for the last decade while co-authoring the program module Administrative Responsibilities of Coaching. He also previously was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and received a National Award of Merit from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

“Jim Feldkamp is an outstanding educator who understands and recognizes the qualities of leadership necessary in educational athletics while also appreciating the meaning and applications of the rules,” said MHSAA assistant director Kathy Vruggink Westdorp as part of the association’s nomination of Feldkamp for the award. “He has a great understanding of the coach’s role and has worked with thousands of coaches throughout Michigan in a continued effort to improve the sport experience of participating students.”

The following brief bios on Michigan coaching award winners include excerpts from coaching philosophies they were asked to submit after being identified as candidates:

Laurie Glass this fall led Leland to the Class D Volleyball Final and has taken her program to four MHSAA championships over three tenures stretching 20 seasons. Including four seasons at Traverse City Central, Glass has a 909-302-108 record dating to her first season at Leland in 1990-91. 

“Athletics is all about opportunity, both for the athlete and the coach. Opportunity to learn life lessons that will help them as the move on outside of the athletic arena. Opportunity for personal growth. Opportunity to be passionate about something that you are willing to work hard for. … Most importantly, the opportunity to develop young women into strong young women who believe in themselves and value what they have to offer.”

John Biedenbach took over the Trenton softball program in 1975. He has led teams to more than 940 wins and was inducted into the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997. He also coached basketball teams to 445 wins beginning in 1977. 

“Building that sense of being a ‘team’ is my most important job as a coach. The team leaves no one out in the cold; each member of the team plays as hard as they can for the sake of their teammates and for the sake of themselves. As coach, I lead by example, always stressing hard work and dedication, long hours practicing and the fundamentals of the game. If I have done my job, my players will start their adult lives stronger and better prepared for the challenges ahead.”

Lober has coached the Traverse City Central boys track and field team since 1977 and also the boys cross country team since 1989. His 1992 track team won the Class A championship, and he has coached 17 individual MHSAA Finals champions. He has built a record of 334-33-3 and was inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006. 

“Athletics are an integral part of the educational setting that should provide experiences through a variety of sports for every student, regardless of ability. While being part of the team, these experiences should foster the qualities of hard work, dependability, fitness and dedication to the team’s goals. Student athletes should be challenged, motivated, counseled and led through activities that develop their mental, social, physical and psychological needs.”

COMMENTARY: Public Act 184 a Real Loser for School Sports in Michigan

By Mark Uyl
MHSAA Executive Director

October 20, 2022

There is a crisis in Michigan schools today that centers on one problem:

Not having enough people.

In discussions with school district personnel, we are being told there has never been a more difficult time for finding people than today. All of us are searching high and low to find coaches for athletic teams, and officials, referees and umpires to administer those games in an orderly and safe way. Dig a little deeper, and school districts are desperate to find those willing to serve as substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Because of this current reality, we continue to be dumbfounded over the approval of Public Act 184 this past summer. This created a new set of retirement rules stipulating that a retiring teacher or administrator cannot be rehired to serve as a coach until after a nine-month waiting period. Even more frustrating: Individuals who had served as high school coaches for many years, who retired from the classroom last June but had planned to keep coaching for a few more seasons, are being told they cannot do so. Those coaches are sidelined, and for no sensible reason.

Cheri Ritz has been the varsity softball coach at Wayland High School since 1995. Cheri has won numerous championships, and has been a model coach and great leader of students throughout her career. Cheri retired as a teacher in June and planned to keep coaching the softball team for a few more years, making a small fraction of what her classroom salary was before retirement. Under the “old” retirement law, Cheri could have retired in June and been detached from the district for 30 days, and then returned and worked for the district in any capacity as long as she was making less than 30 percent of her compensation at the time of her retirement. Under PA 184, this scenario can no longer happen.

In the state of Michigan, we have hundreds of recently-retired school people who want to continue to be some of our best coaches, making pennies on the hour for their time. Now they simply aren’t allowed to do so because of a law that had no intention of impacting coaches and school sports. Cheri is just one example. The same issue has found several more longtime, successful coaches including Northville’s golf coach Chris Cronin and cross country & track field’s Steve Porter at Milan High School.

For the past few months, the MHSAA has met with the Office of Retirement Services, representatives from the Governor’s office and even the bill sponsor of PA 184. Every single conversation revealed the fact that coaches were not even part of the discussion when this new retirement law was passed. In other words, recent retirees continuing to coach were not the issue, but yet this new law now treats coaches as some sort of enemy with zero phase-in period, modification or even the ability to seek a waiver of this new law which became effective immediately on July 25, 2022. We have tried to work within the system to seek some commonsense approaches and solutions to this problem, but to no avail as of yet.

We need your help. We need you to contact the Governor’s office and your State Representative and State Senator’s offices. Let them know PA 184 needs to be fixed now. We need to find a way to let these individuals continue to coach and lead our student-athletes. Let them know our kids cannot play their games without individuals who want to coach, and let them know our kids will miss out on learning valuable life lessons if these coaches are not allowed to continue.

And let them know that PA 184 could not have been passed at a worse time given our most valuable resource – people – is at an all-time low.

PHOTO: Wayland softball coach Cheri Ritz, front right, accepts the Division 2 championship trophy in 2015.