By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A pair of administrators who combined have served high school athletes for more than 60 years on local, state and national levels – Bear Lake athletic director Karen S. Leinaar and Buchanan athletic director Fredrick J. Smith – have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Allen W. Bush Award for 2014.
Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to prep athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to men and women who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 23rd year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.
This year’s honorees have much in common. Both have served multiple school districts during careers each stretching more than three decades. Both have hosted a variety of MHSAA tournament events at multiple levels, including Leinaar managing MHSAA Volleyball and Competitive Cheer Finals.
Both also have been registered MHSAA game officials for 29 years and continue to serve as elected members of the Representative Council – Leinaar since 2000 and Smith since 2005.
“One quality that both Karen and Fred share is their willingness to serve others,” said John E. “Jack” Roberts, executive director of the MHSAA. “No local athletic administrator has worked at more MHSAA Finals venues than Karen, and no one has conducted more leadership training for athletic administrators than Fred.”
A multiple-sport standout while attending Delton-Kellogg High School, Leinaar joined that school’s staff in 1982 and served as athletic director and recreation director during a tenure stretching more than 16 years. She later served as athletic director at both Gaylord and then Benzonia Benzie Central before taking her current position in 2010 at Bear Lake schools, where she organizes athletic programs for students grades 5-12.
Leinaar has been a member for 30 years of both the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (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 and in various leadership roles as part of the MIAAA Board of Directors including as Assistant to the Executive Director.
Leinaar received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a citation from the NFHS in 2000 and was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She also served four years on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
“Karen continues to serve as a voice for high school athletic departments throughout Michigan, and for Michigan high schools at the national level,” Roberts said. “She’s a go-to person on a variety of issues who understands the challenges of schools small and large, north and south. Karen Leinaar is a deserving recipient of the Bush Award.”
Smith began his career as a teacher, coach and athletic director at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic High School, served as athletic director at Comstock for 16 years beginning in 1985 and joined Buchanan as athletic director for grades 7-12 at the start of the 2007-08 school year.
In addition to hosting numerous MHSAA tournaments at the District, Regional and Quarterfinal levels, and serving on a number of MHSAA sport committees, Smith has provided instruction and leadership training at the state and national levels.
He’s presented at 12 MHSAA New Athletic Administrator In-Service programs and also presented at the first statewide MHSAA Sportsmanship Summit. He’s also a certified instructor for the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program. Smith has been involved in the NIAAA Leadership Training Program at both the state and national levels, instructing Leadership Training Institute classes in eight states as well as at the MIAAA state and NIAAA national conferences.
Smith has been a member of the MIAAA since 1985 and has served as its president and the co-chairperson of its Professional Development Committee; he earned its Athletic Director of the Year award in 2000 and George Lovich State Award of Merit in 2007. Smith also has been a member of the NIAAA since 1985 and earned both the Thomas E. Frederick Award of Excellence in 2004 and Frank Kovaleski Professional Development Award in 2012.
“Fred Smith understands – and has taught to administrators all over the state and country – the value of educational athletics. His Buchanan program provides an outstanding example for others to follow,” Roberts said. “Professional development is of high importance to Fred; he works to help others improve just as he seeks to grow himself. We are pleased to present Fred Smith with the Bush Award.”
Leinaar has worked with athletic boosters at Delton Kellogg, Gaylord, Benzie Central and Bear Lake, and served as a member of the Frankfort Downtown Development Association. She graduated from Delton Kellogg in 1977, earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Michigan State University in 1982 and a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994. She has received the Certified Athletic Administrator designation from the NIAAA.
Smith has served on the Buchanan Area Recreation Board since 2010 and also has been active in the Berrien County “Girls on the Run” program, Buchanan’s “Thrill on the Hill” and the McCoy Creek Trail/Buchanan Athletic Dinner-Dance Charity Auction. Also a multi-sport high school athlete, he graduated from Battle Creek St. Philip in 1973 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in 1979. He became a Certified Master Athletic Administrator from the NIAAA in 2006.
More than 44 percent of athletes at Michigan High School Athletic Association member high schools participated in more than one sport during the 2021-22 school year, according to the Multi-Sport Participation Survey conducted this spring, the fourth such survey conducted by the MHSAA over the last five years to monitor the rate of specialization in school sports.
Early and intense sport specialization has become one of the most serious issues related to health and safety at all levels of youth sports, as overuse injuries and burnout among athletes have been tied to chronic injuries and health-related problems later in life. In early 2016, the MHSAA appointed a Task Force on Multi-Sport Participation as part of a continued effort to promote and protect participant health and address the issues leading to early sport specialization. The annual Multi-Sport Participation Survey, first conducted for the 2017-18 school year, was among results of the task force’s work. (No survey was conducted for 2019-20 as spring sports were canceled due to COVID-19.)
The MHSAA 2021-22 Multi-Sport Participation Survey received responses from 85 percent of member high schools, the highest response rate of the four years the survey has been conducted. Survey results showed a slightly lower percentage of member high school students participating in athletics compared to the inaugural survey in 2017-18 – but a higher percentage of multi-sport athletes among those playing at least one sport.
For 2021-22, schools responding to the survey showed 40.4 percent of their students participated in athletics during the last school year – 43.5 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls. Class D schools enjoyed the highest percentage of athletes among the entire student body, at 51.8 percent, followed by Class C (47.8), Class B (41.3) and Class A (37.7).
Those percentages – total and by Class – all were slightly lower than what was produced by the 2017-18 survey, which saw 42.5 percent of students total participating in athletics. However, the percentage of athletes competing in multiple sports in 2021-22 was higher than in 2017-18, 44.3 percent to 42.8 percent.
For 2021-22, 46.5 percent of male athletes and 41.4 percent of female athletes played multiple sports. Class D again enjoyed the highest percentage of multi-sport athletes among this group, at 60.8 percent, followed by Class C (58.5), Class B (49.5) and Class A (36.7).
Similar results for overall sport participation and multi-sport participation relative to enrollment size were seen by further breaking down Class A into schools of fewer than 1,000 students, 1,000-1,500 students, 1,501-2,000 students and more than 2,000 students. For both sport participation as a whole and multi-sport participation specifically, the smallest Class A schools enjoyed the highest percentages, while percentages then decreased for every larger size group of schools. This has remained consistent over the last five years.
“The multi-sport participation survey again shows that student-athletes across the state continue to focus on participation in several sports and the benefits that come with that participation for their school teams. What the numbers don’t show is the behind-the-scenes benefits of multi-sport participation,” said MHSAA assistant director Cody Inglis, who has served as coordinator of the multi-sport task force. “So many student-athletes see great success on and off the field with their teams, teammates, friends and peers while also developing the lifelong lessons that sports done right provide. We continue to believe and know that student-athletes who are involved in multiple sports are more successful, benefit from the variety of sports and see huge long-term benefits.”
The MHSAA Task Force on Multi-Sport Participation also recommended measuring multi-sport participation in MHSAA member schools to recognize “achievers” – that is, schools that surpass the norm given their enrollment and other factors that affect school sports participation.
In Class A, Bay City Central (78.7) and Livonia Franklin (77.7) posted the highest percentages of multi-sport athletes in 2021-22, with Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (75.6) and Parma Western (75.4) also reaching 75 percent. In Class B, four schools achieved at least 80 percent multi-sport participation – Brooklyn Columbia Central (85.8), Detroit Southeastern (84.6), Warren Michigan Collegiate (84) and Durand (82.6).
Class C saw five schools with more than 80 percent of its athletes taking part in more than one sport: Brown City (95.7), Decatur (87.4), Niles Brandywine (85.6), Ishpeming Westwood (83.2) and Flint Beecher (80.4). Five Class D schools responded at higher than 90 percent multi-sport participation, with Coldwater Pansophia Academy and Kinross Maplewood Baptist both reporting 100 percent of their athletes played multiple sports. McBain Northern Michigan Christian (98.6), Ewen-Trout Creek (94.3) and Detroit Douglass (91.7) were the next highest on the Class D list.
A total of 10 schools have appeared among the top 10 percent in their respective classes for multi-sport participation three of the four years of the survey: Battle Creek Harper Creek, Detroit Cody, Gibraltar Carlson, Grand Rapids Northview, Hamtramck, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Ovid-Elise, Warren Lincoln, Athens and Maplewood Baptist.
The full summary report on the Multi-Sport Participation Survey is available on the Multi-Sports Benefits page of the MHSAA Website.