2017-07-16 / Sports

THE PRESSBOX

Co-op programs give opportunities for all coaches

As area districts finally come to terms with the writing that’s been on the wall for several years, opportunities are opening up for varsity coaches. That’s a win-win for the new programs and also leaves the cupboard pretty bare at other schools. Case in point is LakeVille High. Athletic Director Drew Johnson finds himself having to replace nearly all of his coaches for the fall and winter seasons. The new Flint Jaguars, fielding student-athletes from Flint Northwestern and Flint Southwestern, has drawn former LakeVille basketball coaches James Vines and Corey Hightower back to Genesee County. Other coaches are simply choosing to retire now that their kids are graduated.

LakeVille isn’t alone. Grand Blanc replaced longtime football coach Joe Delaney, who retired at the end of last season. More coaches moving on from other districts set in motion the coaches merry-go-round that every athletic director dreads. It’s no fun facing a situation where you have no coach with just weeks before the start of the fall season. Most positions will get filled in time, others may not.

For all of the programs, the best interest of the kids at each district is first and foremost. Athletic directors aren’t going to jump at the first warm body that expresses interest, instead are looking for stability, a longer than one-year commitment to those athletic programs and the right fit based on the size of the school and its athletic offerings.

The enormous amount of league changes that we’ve been detailing over the past two weeks are just part of the overall bigger picture. Change is good and for some of these districts, quite frankly has been needed for some time. Flint is that prime example. It hasn’t had enough athletes to sustain a baseball or softball program. Other districts such as Caseville put its boys’ basketball program on hold. Lapeer is still trying to iron out and evaluate whether it has enough interest to field an ice hockey team. Across the state, lacrosse continues to grow with several new co-ops that were formed in Genesee County this past spring. New programs mean new coaches, new co-ops mean new coaches.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association just released its participation numbers and after several years of decline, girls’ basketball has finally seen a slight increase. Football programs now have 13 8-man teams across the state and a slight decline in 11-man football continues. Other sports are also stemming the tide of declining participation numbers and maybe that’s due largely to schools trying to figure out why kids don’t want to play sports. If you have a school district that includes a high school with more than 300 kids it in, you should easily be able to field a softball, baseball, basketball, or football program.

Enrollment numbers are expected to keep dropping across the state and reports of Lapeer, Beecher, Flint and Saginaw trying to figure out what to do with the smaller number of kids will most certainly affect the number of coaching positions at the middle school, junior high and high schools.

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