Uneven Playing Fields: Minority Coaches Are Rare in Region’s High Schools

By Jim Whymer
Updated: June 6, 2005


RARE EXCEPTION: Port Huron High School football coach and physical education teacher Eddie Kindle spots student Nick Wiczko during an advanced weight-training class. Kindle is one of five minority coaches at area high schools.



Total Hisp-

Population White Black Indian Asian anic:

ST. CLAIR COUNTY 164,235 95% 2.1% 0.5% 0.4% 2.2%

PORT HURON 32,338 86.7% 7.7% 0.9% 0.6% 4.3%

SANILAC COUNTY 44,547 96.9% 0.3% 0.4% 0.3% 2.8%

MACOMB COUNTY788,149 92.7% 2.7% 0.3% 2.1% 1.6%

LAPEER COUNTY 87,904 96.2% 0.8% 0.4% 0.4% 3.1%

HURON COUNTY36,079 98% 0.2% 0.3% 0.4% 1.6%

Stephanie Davis, Hispanic, cheerleading, Croswell-Lexington

Jason Go, Filipino, tennis, Port Huron Northern

Antie Hardy, African-American, athletic director, New Haven

Eddie Kindle, African-American, football, track, Port Huron High

Ben Torres, Hispanic, football, track, New Haven

Eddie Kindle knew exactly where his career was headed the day he left Port Huron High School.

The 1987 graduate planned to return to his alma mater to coach football and teach.

Kindle met his goal as the varsity football coach and a physical education teacher at the Macomb Area Conference school.

“I’m the first African-American football coach in Port Huron High history,” said Kindle, a graduate of Ferris State University in Big Rapids. “I don’t look at it that way. I’m a teacher and coach who just happens to be black. I think the student-athletes at Port Huron High, black or white, look at me as a role model. They know where I came from as an athlete and student.”

A Times Heraldsurvey of the more than 500 varsity coaches at 26 Blue Water Area school districts revealed Kindle is among just a handful who are minorities. Area athletic directors said the number of minority coaches reflects the lack of diversity in the student population, teaching staff and their communities in general.

“When we have coaching or teacher openings, we never seem to get any minority candidates,” said Al Latosz, Algonac’s athletic director. “Our school district has tried to diversify the staff, but individuals have decided to go elsewhere around the state.”

Minority coaches and experts in prep sports say the problem feeds on itself. Minority students don’t see enough role models in coaching and teaching positions, so they are hesitant to enter those career fields.

Minority student athletes agree seeing the diversity is beneficial.

Marion Stewart, who graduates next week from Port Huron High, is heading to Saginaw Valley State University on a football scholarship to study business.

He said Kindle was a great mentor.

“You can talk to Coach Kindle about anything,” he said. “He helped me a lot when it came to recruiting. But he never told me where to go. He let me make that decision.”

Coming back home

Like Kindle, Stephanie Davis of Croswell and Antie Hardy of New Haven are in the communities and school districts where they grew up.

Davis (formerly Garza) is the cheerleading coach at Croswell-Lexington High School and a special education teacher in the middle school.

“Stephanie is an outstanding role model for our student-athletes,” said John Knuth, the Cros-Lex athletic director. “She not only has done a great job with the cheerleading program, but also is a very good teacher.”

Hardy, an African American, played football, basketball and track when the New Haven Rockets were members of the Southern Thumb Association. Today, he is athletic director at the MAC school.

“Antie is one of the best coaches and ADs in the area,” said Jeff Cook, an assistant principal-athletic director at St. Clair High School. “He is a great for that community. The students and athletes really look up to him.”

Jason Go, a Filipino who grew up in St. Clair, coaches boys tennis at Port Huron Northern High School. Ben Torres, who is Hispanic, is in his second year of coaching football and track at New Haven. He graduated from Clintondale, but has family living in New Haven.

“We try to recruit minority teachers and coaches,” said Ken Semelsberger, the Port Huron High athletic director. “There are a lot of teachers in our building who are former students like Eddie and Andrea Malachi. Our football coaching staff is made up of former players.

“I think it’s good to look at local kids as possible teachers and coaches because they many times want to come back to the area. They have a vested interest. Hopefully, we can have a job for them when they graduate. Eddie is a great example. He has been a wonderful leader.”

By the numbers

Twenty-two local districts have no minority head coaches on their varsity staffs. Athletic directors in those districts said there are only a few minority athletes.

“Our teachers and the coaching staff reflect the diversity of our school population,” said Terry Curley, Marysville’s athletic director. “We just don’t have many minority athletes in the high school and haven’t over the years.”

The Marysville school district had a minority student population of 3.4% in 2004, according to state figures reported to Standard and Poor’s.

Athletic directors and coaches at St. Clair, Marine City and Algonac high schools also said there is not a lot of diversity among their athletic squads.

“I don’t know if it’s the area we’re tucked into between East China and Anchor Bay, but we just don’t get any diversity with our students or teachers,” Algonac’s Latosz said. “We might have one minority student in a class each year.”

The East China School District had a minority student population of 2.6% in 2004. Algonac had 5.5%, and Port Huron had 14.6%.

Tony Burton, a Marlette graduate, is the boys basketball coach at Brown City. He also took over the athletic director duties this winter at the Greater Thumb Conference East Division school.

Burton said the Thumb never has had an abundance of minority athletes.

Combined, Sanilac and Huron counties have more than 80,000 residents with a minority population of 5.8%.

“There are just not a lot of jobs around the Thumb, so you don’t get many families moving in,” said Steve Budzynski, the Harbor Beach athletic director. “Where we are located has a lot to do with the lack of minority coaches and athletes.”

Steve Plunkitt, the athletic director at Imlay City, had one minority coach on staff last year. He said there is probably at least one minority athlete, usually Hispanic, on every varsity team with the majority playing soccer and baseball.

Capac Athletic Director Maureen Klocke said some Hispanic families have been in the Capac area for a long time.

“The parents went to school and settled here. Many of their children have been involved in athletics,” she said.

Capac residents Mike Rosas and Gloria Polzin, both Hispanics, have coached middle school teams along with sub-varsity level sports at the high school.

Unbalanced field

Dr. Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said the lack of minorities in coaching positions comes from what students have seen as they were coming up through school.

African-American females, for example, represent less than 5% of all high school athletes, less than 10% of all college athletes and less than 2% of coaches, Lopiano said.

“We cannot forget that minorities do not trust that the system will change,” she said. “We must personally place our qualified candidates in the job market. They are there.”

Kindle said the lack of diversity among the MAC coaching ranks is puzzling.

When he attends football meetings, there is not another African American in the room. There are 35 teams in the conference.

“I think it’s horrible that I’m the only African-American coach in the MAC. I see the schools (St. Clair Shores and Warren schools) down there have a lot of diversity among their athletes, but I don’t see it in the coaching.”

Kindle said it can be a tough sell for African-American students when it comes to entering the teaching field.

“All they have to do is look around them and see the number of minority teachers and coaches,” Kindle said. “There are one or two in the building.

“I’m sure it can be intimidating for a young student. Why would they want to go into that field?”