By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The MHSAA continues to explore ways to interest and invite potential officials to join the ranks of those who play massive roles in administrating our games all over the state.
A few recent efforts have produced excellent results and ideas for the future.
On Saturday, longtime officials Brian Morley and Bruce Moore, along with the Bay Metro Officials Association, hosted at Grand Blanc High School a free clinic for those interested in becoming basketball referees.
The MHSAA also set up a table at the event and provided free registration for attendees – and 31 signed up with the MHSAA on the spot. The Association’s in-person presence at the clinic also gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the next steps after taking part in the training.
All 31 will be first-time basketball officials, and most registered to officiate for the first time in any sport.
More great steps came April 29 as the Jackson Area Officials Association introduced the avocation to more than 30 aspiring officials at a meeting that also was designed for anyone interested in becoming an MHSAA basketball official.
Bill Walker, an organizer of the event and official for more than a decade in his area, said eligible Legacy Officials at the meeting were assigned mentors, and all attendees committed to attend a June clinic at Jackson College. Those leaving the area for college this fall were provided with officiating contacts in the communities where they will be attending school.
The upcoming clinic, free of charge and organized by Walker and Jackson College women’s basketball coach Heather Brown, will provide “real game” work for attendees as they receive training and mentoring.
Michigan Center coach and teacher Lisa Haynes and officials Jason Smith and Chuck Sprang also play instrumental roles in the JAOA recruiting effort.
O-K honors with new hockey divisions
This is older news in the Grand Rapids area, but definitely worth a statewide mention. The Ottawa-Kent Conference traditionally has named its hockey divisions Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3, but has selected names to honor past contributors beginning with the 2018-19 season.
One division will be named after Ron Baum, a longtime coach at East Kentwood and the second winningest in MHSAA history. Another division will be named in honor of late Grandville standout Ryan Fischer, also a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council, who died in his sleep the night before his team’s Division 1 Semifinal in 2014. The third will be named for late official Dave Rue, who died in 2017 after a fight with cancer and was beloved in the hockey community.
Retiring official recognized
Also in hockey, Jenison took a few minutes to pay a touching tribute to official Ray Sheahan on the ice before his final MHSAA game – he retired at the end of this winter from high school hockey after 22 years as an MHSAA registered official.
Sheehan also has been involved in mentoring officials at various youth levels in the Grand Rapids area with an impact reaching far past high school rinks. Check out the tribute below:
PHOTO: Aspiring basketball officials listen in during a meeting with the Jackson Area Officials Association on April 29. (Photo courtesy of the JAOA.)
While fans are settling into another season, Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs has been fully immersed in football for months.
The Jackson Post’s assistant post commander serves as assistant coach for Jackson High School’s varsity football team and for the team at Parkside Middle School.
“I started coaching when my older son was in youth sports, as a way to do something together that we both love,” Gibbs said. “My younger son followed the same path, so I joined his team too. I grew up in Jackson and am grateful to be able to serve my hometown from the sidelines and at our post.”
Some 400 miles north, Lt. Mark Giannunzio is also a familiar face in and on the field. The MSP Negaunee Post assistant post commander and Eighth District public information officer enforces the rules of the game as a high school and college football official, the latter for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I started at the high school level to stay involved in athletics and make authentic connections in the community,” Giannunzio said. “It’s rewarding to help teach the game and share knowledge of the rules. I currently have a full 11-game schedule in the GLIAC Division II college conference, with high school games interspersed during the year.”
The correlation among coaching, officiating and policing translates.
“With my fellow troopers, I want to inspire, motivate and encourage to get the most out of them,” Gibbs said. “I take the same approach with my players to figure out what they need from me, as their designated leader, to be as successful as they can. In both capacities, I do the work alongside them. We do it together.”
This approach is especially important when tough times surface. Lieutenant Gibbs’ high school team experienced tragedy right before its first game when a player died in a car crash.
“We focused on adversity,” said Gibbs, who was in a unique position to talk from a police perspective too. “It’s a benefit to have that insight and background and share it with what they can control – make good decisions and wear your seatbelt.”
Lieutenant Gibbs incorporates his coworkers when he can, like during spring conditioning when fellow troopers join him and his players, helping all involved to make new connections and build strong bonds between the students and officers.
“One of the most important attributes in both careers is communication,” Giannunzio said. “Communication can make or break an official and a police officer. Much like selling a citation to a motorist, I need to be able to sell the penalty in a calm and professional manner. Demeanor and attitude go together on both the football field and when we are out patrolling in the Blue Goose.”
Treating everyone with dignity and respect is something Lieutenants Gibbs and Giannunzio commit to as members of a modern police agency and in their areas of expertise on the football field.
“Both roles afford so many opportunities to develop culture and cultivate teamwork,” Gibbs said. “The best part is watching others flourish and playing a part in their growth.”
PHOTOS (Top) Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs, left, serves as an assistant football coach for the Jackson High varsity. (Middle) Lt. Mark Giannunzio officiates at the high school and college levels. (Below) Gibbs also coaches at Jackson Parkside Middle School. (Photos provided by the Michigan State Police.)