Przystas Helps 'Shape' Fitness for Future

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 20, 2016

Scott Przystas had plans earlier this week to “crash” a Grand Haven schools party with vegetables grown in his classroom’s hydroponic garden. It may be winter outside, but in his physical education class, it’s time to harvest.

But the Michigan chill doesn’t mean his students – ranging from Young 5’s to fourth grade – will be restricted to the gym for the next three months. When they return in 2017, they’ll head outside and give snow-shoeing a try.  

Teaching includes a lot more than daily dodgeball or rolling out the basketballs for Przystas, a member of the MHSAA Multi-Sport Task Force and this fall’s honoree as Michigan Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the state’s chapter of Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE).

The task force over its first few months has determined that the message on the many benefits of participating in multiple sports must be delivered to students and their families long before these students reach high school and even junior high – making passionate educators like Przystas especially key. He passes on a perspective that “PE is the most important thing we can teach kids, how to be physically active for life” while teaching students at Grand Haven’s Mary A. White and Rosy Mound elementary schools.

“That’s our goal with the elementary PE department in Grand Haven, to make it relevant again,” Przystas said. “Because it’s really easy in our profession (to say) here’s the ball kids, do you want to do. But it’s not gratifying at all. It’s not satisfying to the kid or the teacher.”

Przystas brings the MHSAA task force a wealth of experience as a coach – he’s in charge of the high school’s girls cross country team, serves as freshman coach and varsity assistant for girls basketball and leads the middle school track & field teams. But he also provides an important voice for physical education, an area the task force considers crucial to growing interest in playing many sports instead of specializing in one – which studies have shown can lead to chronic injuries when playing that one sport while leading those children to become adults who are less likely to be physically active and fit. He is in his eighth year in the Grand Haven district and has taught in nine buildings at the elementary, middle, high school and alternative education levels.

“Scott has been instrumental in leading changes to the PE program in Grand Haven,” Mary A. White principal Valerie Livingston said in a report for the Grand Haven Tribune. “His excitement about life-long fitness and nutrition is contagious in the school. Under Scott's direction we have students who look forward to smoothie bars at lunch and are excited to see our new tower garden grow.”

Many teachers

Przystas’ philosophy is deeply-rooted in the positive experience he had growing up in Gladwin, a much smaller community than Grand Haven located north of Midland and Mount Pleasant.

His father Ronald – who formerly worked at the Lansing State Journal and Cadillac Evening News before becoming a reporter, editor at later publisher at the Gladwin County Record – died in a car crash in 1996. But he left his then 10-year-old son a love for sports photography – Scott minored in journalism at Michigan State University – and also plenty of familiarity with athletics. A track & field meet hosted by Gladwin Junior High School bears Ron’s name.

Sports provided an outlet during that tough time. During middle school, Scott would go from a basketball game to hockey practice that same night, filling his time with those sports, golfing and a variety of other like activities.

A few years after his dad’s death, Przystas became a manager for the Flying G’s boys basketball varsity coached by Kirk Taylor, who had gotten to know Ron well over the years. Ron had made sure Kirk understood the importance of Gladwin beating county rival Beaverton – they play for a trophy dating back to 1937 – and so it was memorable when Scott, as a senior during the 2005-06 season, scored a career-high 25 points to help the Flying G’s beat the Beavers despite the fact he really wasn’t a scorer as much as a solid all-around player.

“Scott was part of the best group of captains I have had here at Gladwin in the past 23 years,” Taylor said. “One of his co-captains was quiet and out-worked everybody. Another of his tri-captains was very direct with players. Scott was a little of both, but he always delivered the message with the most positive manner.

“I did not know that Scott would become a teacher and/or a coach, but I did know that he would be very successful at whatever profession he chose.”

Przystas made the all-Jack Pine Conference second team as a senior in 2004 while also earning all-league honors in golf and serving as a pinch-runner in baseball for a couple of seasons – but that was just a start on his athletic endeavors. At MSU, as he was studying toward a degree in kinesiology, Przystas played on the practice scout team that daily took on the women’s basketball team as the Spartans prepped for multiple NCAA Tournament runs. He knew he wanted a career in sports, and that experience got him interested in coaching. He also participated on the MSU triathlon club team, which got him into endurance sports.

He graduated from MSU and before the fall of 2009 latched on at Grand Haven. His first call was to Buccaneers girls hoops coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, and he was on her bench as an assistant for the program’s back-to-back Class A championships in 2012 and 2013 – while also for a time living in her basement before marrying his wife Renee.

Przystas also inherited the high school’s girls cross country program, which he coaches with Renee, and which has made the MHSAA Finals 17 straight seasons. In addition, he became the Lakeshore Middle School track & field coach – and he sees all of these as being related.  

“At a Class A school like this, I’d like to say having most (students) participating in high school sports is because of the elementary PE teachers rocking it,” Przystas said. “Our numbers in cross country are up there (50-60 athletes the last few seasons), our numbers in track are getting up there, and the kids are seeing a familiar face and enjoying the process and sticking with it.”

Passing those lessons on

In addition to Taylor and Kowalczyk-Fulmer, Przystas credits his high school golf coach Ben Ball and Gladwin’s former girls varsity and boys subvarsity boys basketball coach Andy Miceli among those who helped shape his growing up. He also gained valuable experience during his student teaching as an assistant with the Bath High School girls under Craig Poppema, and retired longtime Grand Haven boys hoops coach Craig Taylor – Kirk’s dad – has provided plenty of mentoring.

Przystas – who has served a two-year term on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports – teaches from a philosophy based on a pyramid. The bottom level is health and knowing how to take care of oneself, with the middle level physical literacy and the body’s ability to solve movement problems to avoid injury. The top of his pyramid is adventure, and that’s what he’s trying to deliver to his students.

But to do so, he also has to be able to relate and communicate with them.

“Scott makes it fun. He’s just very organized – and he connects with whatever age group, whether it’s kindergarten kids or high school girls,” said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, recalling how excited her 5-year-old son was to have “Coach P” as a teacher. “Freshman girls can sometimes be an interesting group to coach … but he never changes who he is. I’ll stand in the locker room after games and listen to the things he says. Just the quality of person he is, he’s a role model, he and his assistant Kelly Kieft. He’s just a good, positive role model for young people.”

Przystas noted how SHAPE America is pushing for the generation of children being born now becoming an “active” next generation, and as a newer father this hits home – and also helps fuel his desire to help.

He said it’s harder to plant that seed when students are older – but that’s where his responsibility as a cultivator at the elementary level comes in.

“I had a great childhood experience,” Przystas said. “That was the big thing. I fully remember all of the pickup games we had in our neighborhood, the outdoor adventures exploring, playing ping-pong on a chipped-up table.

“(That’s why) I promote to kids in middle school, elementary school, to go check out a lacrosse game. Go to swim camp. Be active this summer. Don’t just be sitting around. We’ve just got to get them outside more and have kids be active.”

PHOTO: (Top) Teacher Scott Przystas (kneeling) works with one of his elementary school classes in Grand Haven. (Middle) Przystas (back row, second from left) has been an assistant on two Class A girls basketball championship teams. (Top photo courtesy of the Grand Haven Tribune.)

2023 WISL Award Honoree Glass Continuing to Create Leaders On Court & Off

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 2, 2023

Hailing from one of Michigan’s smallest communities, Laurie Glass has made an impact that continues to connect all over Michigan.

But her impact on women’s athletics began long before a career that has seen the longtime Leland volleyball coach become one of the winningest in her sport in state history.

As a high school junior in 1976, she recruited seven classmates and a coach to form Leland’s first girls sports team – for basketball – and the same group then played volleyball that winter. She was a senior and major contributor when, during their second season, the Comets won the 1978 Class D volleyball championship.

More than four decades later, Glass is a Michigan legend in that sport – a winner of 1,218 matches with Leland and Traverse City Central and three Finals championships with the Comets. She’s also a nationally-recognized voice in volleyball and women’s athletics as a whole – and this year’s MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership honoree for those many and continuing contributions.

“Because I’m a teacher and coach, that’s my desire to help the youth be the best they could be. And if I can impact a coach or impact another district or program, that means I’m affecting more youth in a positive way,” Glass said. “So for me, it’s just the ripple effect; it gets a lot bigger when I’m starting little drops in other places. So I can affect the hundreds of kids that I’ve seen go through Leland, or I can impact the larger audience by impacting coaches or impacting kids in other places that can then impact other people. It allows me a wider audience for wanting to help young women to be their best young woman self in however way I can make that happen.”

Each year, the Representative Council considers the achievements of women coaches, officials and athletic administrators affiliated with the MHSAA who show exemplary leadership capabilities and positive contributions to athletics.

Leland finished 49-13 this past season and reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals. Glass has a record of 1,218-393-122 over more than three decades as a varsity volleyball coach, having led the Comets for a combined 29 seasons over three tenures, the first beginning with the 1989-90 winter season and later picking up with her most recent return for Fall 2010. She also coached Traverse City Central for four seasons beginning in 1991-92.

Glass passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.Glass led Leland to Class D Finals championships in 2002, 2006 and 2015, and runner-up finishes in Class D in 2014 and Division 4 in 2018 and 2019. She was named to the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) Hall of Fame in 2006, and selected as national Coach of the Year in volleyball in 2014 by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association. She’s a three-time MIVCA Coach of the Year and was named Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA) Coach of the Year for volleyball in 2015. She also was a finalist for National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) national Coach of the Year in 2014. 

Glass has spoken multiple times at the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Conference and several times at the MIVCA Coaches Clinic, and among various other engagements was the featured speaker at the Nebraska Athletic Association Coaches Clinic. She will receive the Women In Sports Leadership Award during the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Basketball Final on March 18 at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

“Laurie Glass is recognized most on the statewide level for leading one of the most successful volleyball programs in state history. But she is known among her peers most for the way she teaches not only volleyball but life skills to her athletes,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Her leadership creates more leaders, be they the athletes who have the opportunity to play for her or the coaches who learn from her and receive her mentorship.”   

Glass’ roots are in one of the most accomplished athletic families in Michigan high school history.

Her father Larry Glass coached Northwestern University’s men’s basketball program from 1963-69, and later took over the Leland girls basketball program and led the Comets to a 388-110 record and three straight Class D Finals championships (1980-82) over two tenures from 1977-91 and 2000-05. Laurie’s sister Rebecca McKee played basketball at Leland and Michigan State University, and her brother Michael Glass played basketball at Lansing Community College before also becoming a high school and college coach.

Laurie also coached and parented arguably the most accomplished volleyball player – and perhaps top female athlete across all sports – in Michigan high school history. Her daughter Alisha Glass-Childress graduated from Leland in 2006 with national records for career kills, aces and blocks, and the first two still top those respective lists. Alisha, also an all-state basketball player, went on to star on the volleyball court at Penn State and as the U.S. Olympic team setter in 2016 in helping that team to the bronze medal.

Larry Glass’ lessons still ring true as Laurie passes them on to another generation. One of her favorite sayings from her father was “you can’t take money out of the bank until you put money in” – in essence, a coach can’t expect athletes to accept criticism or a hard ask if that coach first hasn’t invested in them. Another of her dad’s themes involved making sure players learned fundamentals at young ages and improved on them at all levels, whether they won games or not during those early years. As one of his middle school coaches, that stuck with her, and it remains a basic component of her coaching.

“I’ve always said that we compete with teams that are way more athletic, have all the things on paper that should beat us. And the fact that we know how to be a really good team is what allows us to beat people who on paper should be better than us,” Laurie Glass said. “I’ve always valued the time spent on culture and team because that’s the advantage we hold. We’re never going to be the tallest or most talented – Alisha being the anomaly, of course.”

Laurie Glass has served on the MIVCA Executive Board, including as president, and is a member of the MHSCA and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). Locally, her program annually hosts the Forever Dig Abby match in honor of former player Abby Gross, who died after a fight against cancer in 2015. Proceeds most years go to benefit another community member battling the disease, and this past season went to a fund for efforts related to ovarian cancer.  

Glass has served nearly 35 years in education and retired from her duties as a behavior intervention specialist and special education teacher in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District in 2019. She has returned to the school setting, however, and is in her second year as a behavior intervention specialist at Leland.

Glass earned a bachelor’s degree in special education with an endorsement in emotional impairment from Western Michigan University in 1988, and has done master-level coursework in education administration and technology. She also is a certified instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute. Glass first attended Grand Valley State University and played a season of volleyball before transferring. (NOTE: Glass also coached the Kalamazoo Central varsity for two seasons during the mid-1980s. Those records are unavailable currently but will be added to her overall record when research is complete.)

Past Women In Sports Leadership Award Winners

1990 – Carol Seavoy, L’Anse 
1991 – Diane Laffey, Harper Woods
1992 – Patricia Ashby, Scotts
1993 – Jo Lake, Grosse Pointe
1994 – Brenda Gatlin, Detroit
1995 – Jane Bennett, Ann Arbor
1996 – Cheryl Amos-Helmicki, Huntington Woods
1997 – Delores L. Elswick, Detroit
1998 – Karen S. Leinaar, Delton
1999 – Kathy McGee, Flint 
2000 – Pat Richardson, Grass Lake
2001 – Suzanne Martin, East Lansing
2002 – Susan Barthold, Kentwood
2003 – Nancy Clark, Flint
2004 – Kathy Vruggink Westdorp, Grand Rapids 
2005 – Barbara Redding, Capac
2006 – Melanie Miller, Lansing
2007 – Jan Sander, Warren Woods
2008 – Jane Bos, Grand Rapids
2009 – Gail Ganakas, Flint; Deb VanKuiken, Holly
2010 – Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2011 – Ellen Pugh, West Branch; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2012 – Janet Gillette, Comstock Park
2013 – Barbara Beckett, Traverse City
2014 – Teri Reyburn, DeWitt
2015 – Jean LaClair, Bronson
2016 – Betty Wroubel, Pontiac
2017 – Dottie Davis, Ann Arbor
2018 – Meg Seng, Ann Arbor
2019 – Kris Isom, Adrian
2020 – Nikki Norris, East Lansing
2021 – Dorene Ingalls, St. Ignace
2022 – Lori Hyman, Livonia

PHOTOS (Top) Leland coach Laurie Glass confers with one of her players during the 2019 Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Glass passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.