Seng Leads, Coaches Others to do Same
January 25, 2018
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Meg Seng misses coaching – in her words, “those relationships really are what it’s all about … stronger than just about anything other than family.”
But the coach in Seng continues to show the way in her work every day.
Seng will be honored next month with the MHSAA’s 31st Women in Sports Leadership Award for her work at Ann Arbor Huron and Greenhills over more than 30 years in educational athletics.
The award also will recognize Seng’s teaching, training and empowering of the next generation of coaches and especially women aspiring to follow her into leadership positions in a field where they remain underrepresented.
“I’ve always loved sport, and early on found I had a knack and an interest in coaching. So to be able to share with other young women what I think is a really noble profession makes it a passion for me,” Seng said. “I think it’s a great endeavor, and I’d love for more women to have the opportunity and the confidence to seek out some of those positions.”
Seng will receive this year’s award during the WISL Banquet at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West.
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.
Seng is in her 28th year at Greenhills School, serving as the athletic director the last 15 after 13 teaching physical education and health. Previously a scholarship athlete playing both volleyball and softball at Indiana University – and winning a pair of Big Ten championships on the diamond – Seng coached both sports at Ann Arbor-area high schools over nearly two decades and has continued as a role model for emerging coaches.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve been to every single (WISL) conference, and so for years, I’ve certainly been in the audience watching these great women be recognized,” Seng said. “To have followed for that long and now be on stage, it’s a tremendous honor for me – that group of women and their value to sport in Michigan is not lost on me at all. I truly respect that group, and I’m really proud to be part of it.”
A 1977 graduate of Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Ill., Seng began coaching at the college level after her playing days with the Hoosiers were done. She served first as a graduate assistant softball coach at Louisiana Tech University in 1983-84 while studying for her master’s degree, and then as a softball assistant at Illinois State University for 1984-85.
Seng took over the Ann Arbor Huron volleyball program in 1985, and over 12 seasons stretching two tenures led her team to five league titles and a District championship in 1993. She also served as Huron's co-head varsity softball coach from 1986-90.
She completed her teacher certification at Eastern Michigan University in 1990 and began teaching at Greenhills that year, later coaching that school’s varsity volleyball team from 1993-2000 and leading the Gryphons to a District title in 1997.
In 2001, Seng co-founded The Academy of Sports Leadership (TASL), a non-profit organization that provides education and training for women interested in becoming coaches and hosts a five-day residential camp for high school girls with that aspiration. In 2003, Seng became Greenhills’ athletic director and began her work as well contributing to the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), serving on committees for both including as part of the MIAAA’s Leadership Academy faculty since 2011 and the NIAAA’s certification committee since 2014. She served as the MIAAA’s Executive Board president in 2013-14.
At Greenhills, Seng has hosted more than 20 MHSAA tournament events in various sports at the District, Regional and Quarterfinal levels, and she’s served on a variety of MHSAA committees as well as currently the Multi-Sport Participation Task Force. She also is an instructor for the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program.
“Meg Seng has been a leader at every level of educational athletics – as an accomplished coach, respected athletic director and someone who empowers women interested in following her lead and filling the need we have in school sports for more women in all forms of leadership positions,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “She personifies the Women In Sports Leadership Award, and we’re delighted to present her with this honor.”
Seng received the MIAAA Jack Johnson Distinguished Service Award in 2012 and her region’s Athletic Director of the Year Award in 2008. She also received the Pathfinder Award in 2004 from the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports (NAGWS), and under her leadership Greenhills received the Exemplary Athletic Program Award from the MIAAA in 2017. She also received the Girl Scouts’ Leaders and Best Award in 2005.
In addition to her work with The Academy of Sports Leadership, she’s served since 2009 on the board as a founding member of the Michigan Softball Academy, which annually raises money for the American Cancer Society. She is published for her work in coaching education and recruitment and has spoken on various occasions on ways to provide opportunities for young women in coaching. She will present on recruiting and retaining female leaders at the annual statewide MIAAA conference this March.
“Meg sees a need and takes initiative to put a committee, group or process in place to solve and satisfy this need,” Holly athletic director Deb VanKuiken said in her letter recommending Seng for the WISL Award. “I truly respect and admire her. She has a great mind and a great heart for athletes and coaches alike. She leads, and she serves.”
Part of filling that need is helping athletic directors find candidates and helping candidates feel confident.
Seng monitors coaching at the high school and college levels, and has watched the percentage of female coaches at the college level fall drastically since Title XI. She also hears a few things – from women finishing college athletic careers who don’t feel qualified to coach, and also from athletic directors who would love to hire women coaches but aren’t finding candidates.
“Our Academy is a grassroots organization just trying to get young girls to follow that dream and show them the possibilities,” Seng said. “It’s a primer on coaching; we show them all the things coaches do and hope it sticks, that they say, ‘I can do that.’
“Part of what we do is try to empower them to take some of those risks.”
In addition to the MIAAA and NIAAA, and NAGWS, Seng is a member of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD).
The first Women In Sports Leadership Award was presented in 1990
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 Notre Dame Prep
2017 – Dottie Davis, Ann Arbor Huron
PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Greenhills athletic director Meg Seng instructs in the classroom; she taught at Greenhills for 13 years and continues teaching as part of CAP and the Academy of Sports Leadership. (Middle) Seng, left, also was a successfull volleyball coach at Ann Arbor Huron and Greenhills. (Photos courtesy of Meg Seng.)
2023 Forsythe Award Celebrates Leinaar's 40 Years Dedicated to School Sports
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 8, 2023
Few people in Michigan have had a longer-lasting influence on the rules and policies of educational athletics than Frankfort’s Karen Leinaar, who has served in several roles locally, statewide and nationally over more than 40 years contributing to the school sports community.
Thank you, Bill Baker.
The longtime teacher, coach, principal and superintendent during a career that stretched across multiple schools – including Leinaar’s growing up, Delton Kellogg – made an impression on the standout multi-sport athlete before she graduated from high school in 1977. Baker’s philosophy and work led Leinaar to study education at Michigan State University and then brought her back as Delton’s athletic director to begin four decades of making the same impact on children in her hometown and eventually in hometowns all over Michigan and beyond.
Baker died in 2009, but not before continuing to mentor Leinaar through many good times and tough ones.
“The man had two daughters that I grew up with, his wife was a teacher, and he demonstrated to all of us – he never missed an event – that we were important to him. That even though we weren’t his kids, we were his kids and athletics was a way to help kids become better people – and for some kids it was the only thing that they had positive in their life,” Leinaar said. “And he made it known just to that individual kid how important their participation was and their involvement, and how that helped them become the person that they were.
“That to me was such an example of how to help people be good people, that I just took that role on.”
It’s a role in which she continues to serve. Leinaar began her career as an athletic administrator in 1982, and as the interim athletic director currently at Frankfort High School is serving her fifth district in that position. Since June 2019, she also has served as executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional organization for school sports administrators in the state with a membership of nearly 700.
To recognize that longtime and continuing impact, Leinaar has been named the 2023 honoree for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.
The annual award is in its 46th year and named after former MHSAA Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe, the Association's first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council, based on an individual's outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.
Leinaar also served 22 years on the MHSAA’s Representative Council and a four-year term from 2009-13 on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and just last week was named to the 2023 class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.
“It is impossible even to estimate the number of students, coaches, administrators and others who have been affected by the work Karen Leinaar has done to make school sports the best they can be – not only in her communities, but across Michigan and throughout the country,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are few who have equaled her dedication and her support and promotion of the ideals of school-based sports. She has always placed an emphasis on being in the room, on the field or at the arena, actively participating in her leadership roles, and our programs are better for it.”
Leinaar first served as athletic director at Delton Kellogg for nearly 17 years, from March 1982 through October 1998. She spent three years at Gaylord, then 8½ at Benzie Central before taking over at Bear Lake in November 2010 and spending the next decade organizing athletic programs for students in grades 5-12 before retiring in January 2021. She came out of retirement to return to the athletic director’s chair this past fall as interim AD at Frankfort. She has completed nearly four years as MIAAA executive director, moving into that position after previously serving nine years as an assistant to the executive.
Leinaar began her service on the Representative Council in Fall 1999 and completed her last term as a statewide at-large representative at the Fall 2021 meeting.
She has been honored several times for her contributions. She received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a Citation from the NFHS in 2000, and she was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She received an MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 – recognition given for work done generally behind the scenes and with little attention.
“This is the top of the mountain, per se. This one does mean so much,” Leinaar said of the Forsythe Award. “The names that are associated with this over the years, I never thought I’d be put in that group.”
Leinaar remains a continuous source of support at a multitude of MHSAA championship events, and during her time on Council was one of the most frequent representatives handing out trophies and medals to champions and runners-up at Finals events. She began while athletic director at Delton Kellogg hosting the MHSAA Volleyball Finals in Class B and Class C and continues to assist with those championships now played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
She also hosted Competitive Cheer Finals at Delton Kellogg in 1996 and 1997, Ski Finals while at Gaylord, and many more championship events across the Lower Peninsula. She continues to assist at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Cross Country and Track & Field Finals.
After attending Delton Kellogg High School, Leinaar earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and recreation, with a minor in driver education, from MSU in 1982. She completed a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994.
Leinaar has been a member for 40 years of both the MIAAA and NIAAA, and has served as chairperson of the MIAAA Annual Conference and awards chairperson for both the state and national bodies. She’s also served as chairperson of the MIAAA’s Exemplary Athletic Program.
Past recipients of the Charles E. Forsythe Award
1978 - Brick Fowler, Port Huron; Paul Smarks, Warren
1979 - Earl Messner, Reed City; Howard Beatty, Saginaw
1980 - Max Carey, Freesoil
1981 - Steven Sluka, Grand Haven; Samuel Madden, Detroit
1982 - Ernest Buckholz, Mt. Clemens; T. Arthur Treloar, Petoskey
1983 - Leroy Dues, Detroit; Richard Maher, Sturgis
1984 - William Hart, Marquette; Donald Stamats, Caro
1985 - John Cotton, Farmington; Robert James, Warren
1986 - William Robinson, Detroit; Irving Soderland, Norway
1987 - Jack Streidl, Plainwell; Wayne Hellenga, Decatur
1988 - Jack Johnson, Dearborn; Alan Williams, North Adams
1989 - Walter Bazylewicz, Berkley; Dennis Kiley, Jackson
1990 - Webster Morrison, Pickford; Herbert Quade, Benton Harbor
1991 - Clifford Buckmaster, Petoskey; Donald Domke, Northville
1992 - William Maskill, Kalamazoo; Thomas G. McShannock, Muskegon
1993 - Roy A. Allen Jr., Detroit; John Duncan, Cedarville
1994 - Kermit Ambrose, Royal Oak
1995 - Bob Perry, Lowell
1996 - Charles H. Jones, Royal Oak
1997 - Michael A. Foster, Richland; Robert G. Grimes, Battle Creek
1998 - Lofton C. Greene, River Rouge; Joseph J. Todey, Essexville
1999 - Bernie Larson, Battle Creek
2000 - Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo; Jerry Cvengros, Escanaba
2001 - Norm Johnson, Bangor; George Lovich, Canton
2002 - John Fundukian, Novi
2003 - Ken Semelsberger, Port Huron
2004 - Marco Marcet, Frankenmuth
2005 - Jim Feldkamp, Troy
2006 - Dan McShannock, Midland; Dail Prucka, Monroe
2007 - Keith Eldred, Williamston; Tom Hickman, Spring Lake
2008 - Jamie Gent, Haslett; William Newkirk, Sanford Meridian
2009 - Paul Ellinger, Cheboygan
2010 - Rudy Godefroidt, Hemlock; Mike Boyd, Waterford
2011 - Eric C. Federico, Trenton
2012 - Bill Mick, Midland
2013 - Jim Gilmore, Tecumseh; Dave Hutton, Grandville
2014 - Dan Flynn, Escanaba
2015 - Hugh Matson, Saginaw
2016 - Gary Hice, Petoskey; Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2017 - Chuck Nurek, Rochester Hills
2018 - Gary Ellis, Allegan
2019 - Jim Derocher, Negaunee; Fredrick J. Smith, Stevensville
2020 - Michael Garvey, Lawton
2021 - Leroy Hackley Jr., Byron Center; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2022 - Bruce Horsch, Houghton
PHOTOS (Top) Karen Leinaar, left, awards the 2022 Division 4 volleyball finalist trophy to Indian River Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore. (Middle) Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998.