By Terri Finch Hamilton
Reprinted with permission of CMUChippewas.com
Gina Mazzolini's parents taught her to be a good person first, a good student second, and a good athlete after that. But Mazzolini says her involvement in sports at CMU taught her things that went way beyond the classroom.
"At Central, I learned women are just as good as men -- or better," says Mazzolini, assistant director at the Michigan High School Athletic Association. "I learned that if we put our minds to it, we can do anything."
A star athlete in volleyball and basketball at CMU from 1974 to 1978, Mazzolini says college sports helped her soar after the limitations for girls in high school sports in the early 1970s.
"In high school, women were always taking the back seat to men," says Mazzolini, 57. "I didn't see women in leadership positions in high school. Girls couldn't use the weight room -- we had to sneak in, then we'd get kicked out. They'd look at me and say, 'Why would you want to lift weights?'
"When the guys were done with the gym, then we could use it."
As an athlete at St. Johns High School, Mazzolini was just starting to compete competitively, she says. She won the school's first ever female athlete of the year award.
"Then I went to Central Michigan, and my teammates were all the best kids from their high school teams. Suddenly, everybody was good. And everybody we played against was good."
It was eye opening, she says.
"You learn a lot about yourself," she says. "If you can survive a practice, if you can survive playing Michigan State, you get confidence. I realized I was good. I learned how to be competitive, in a good way."
In basketball, she led the Chippewas in scoring and rebounding three straight seasons - averaging in double figures in both categories. After graduating from CMU, Mazzolini went on to teach and coach at the high school and college levels. She was inducted into the CMU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992.
A few years later, Mazzolini received the 2009-10 Women In Sports Leadership Award by the Representative Council of the MHSAA.
So much of what she learned on the college volleyball and basketball courts prepared her for later success, Mazzolini says.
"In athletics, you can't worry about what just happened," she says. "You control your emotions, you take a deep breath, you move forward."
Good advice on any day, she says.
"You learn that you don't always win, and you learn to take defeat gracefully," she says. "Later, in your business life, you're not going to win everything, either. Sports teaches you how to deal with setbacks, how to work hard and rearrange your goals so that you do better next time.
"You learn if you work together, you can achieve amazing things."
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The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association began examining several topics during its Fall Meeting, Dec. 1 in East Lansing – including start and end dates of the winter calendar, possible new transfer rule exceptions and emerging sports – that will shape its work during the winter and spring meetings of this 2023-24 school year.
Generally, the Council takes only a few actions during its Fall Meeting, with topics often introduced for additional consideration and action during its meetings in March and May. The Council did take three actions this time as part of larger conversations expected to continue over the next six months.
The Council joined staff discussion on the start and end dates of winter seasons and the possibility of moving up both, which was among topics surveyed as part of the Update Meeting poll completed by administrators during the MHSAA’s annual presentations across the state this fall. Staff will prepare a recommendation for Council to review at a future meeting regarding the 2025-26 school year and beyond.
MHSAA staff also provided a variety of transfer rule issues encountered over the last year, and Council discussed the possibility of adding transfer rule exceptions related to military transfer families, fulltime school employee transfers and students returning from a sports academy or prep school and seeking immediate eligibility. The Council did adopt a change for multi-high school districts (with at least three high schools) that include both boundary and non-boundary schools that more clearly defined where students at those schools have immediate eligibility.
The Council also discussed possible new and emerging sports, including proposals for MHSAA sponsorship received by the water polo and field hockey governing bodies and an anticipated proposal to add boys volleyball to the MHSAA Tournament lineup.
Several more conversations regarded MHSAA postseasons:
- The Council reviewed the work of the Football Task Force and considered a staff recommendation to have the Football Committee in January discuss possibly capping enrollment of Division 8 11-player schools at 250 students to incentivize schools within that group to play 11-player instead of switching to 8-player.
- MHSAA staff have identified four areas requiring financial increases – MHSAA Tournament officials fees, host schools compensations, manager honorariums and team reimbursements for Finals participants – and the Council discussed the importance of including these when the MHSAA Audit & Finance Committee meets in February to begin the 2024-25 budgetary process.
- The Council also discussed recommendations from the MHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee addressing possible requirements of emergency action plans and AEDs at MHSAA Tournament sites.
The Fall Meeting saw the appointment of Wyoming Godfrey-Lee Schools superintendent Arnetta Thompson and Freeland Middle School principal Jennifer Thunberg to two-year terms to the 19-person Council, the first terms for both. The Council also reelected Scott Grimes, superintendent for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; Brighton High School athletic director John Thompson as its vice president, and Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as secretary-treasurer.
The Representative Council is the legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.