Archive for Thursday, December 2, 2004

Double Duty

December 2, 2004

Late nights are the norm for coaches at all levels. They come with the territory.

Lansing High wrestling coach Ron Averill and LHS girls' basketball coach Keith Andrews have upped the ante a bit, though.

Both are doing a serious case of double-duty coaching both high school and Lansing Middle School programs at the same time.

Sure, the overlapping period may be only two weeks, with middle school girls' basketball finishing with its home tournament on Saturday and LMS wrestling wrapping up with a 4 p.m. home meet today, but it still has made for two huge juggling acts.

It's tough enough finding time to teach class, make time for family and coach one team, let alone two.

Still, both men have made it work.

"The only thing that really enables that to happen is having a solid coaching squad with great assistant coaches," said Averill, who has coached at LHS for 21 years but is in his third year of coaching both the Lansing High and LMS teams at the same time. "I'm in an awesome position here in that I have great assistants at the high school and middle school both, and I feel like we're being able to translate what they're learning in middle school on up to high school and keep it all rolling.

"If I didn't have the quality support behind me, there's no way I'd be able to do this on my own. The only way it's able to work well is to have the strong support structure which we have in place."

Andrews echoed those sentiments and praised his staff, as well as the flexibility of both his middle school and high school athletes, for making things work.

The primary disadvantage of the multitasking has been the major time crunch both coaches have endured. From family life to free time, their schedules have been severely limited because they constantly are teaching, running a practice or coaching a game.

Still, neither is complaining because they know they're in a unique position in terms of building their programs.

Unlike most coaches, Averill and Andrews are able teach their systems to players at an early age and develop their players for two years before they ever reach the high school level. In theory, that should ease the athletes' transition to the high school level.

"The advantage of it and the beauty of it is that you get to see the kids that are coming up and you get to have some input on what they're doing now," Andrews said. "You have more input on what you're doing at the middle school level so there's some continuity there."

It turns out the overlapping is not limited only to coaches. Players from the LMS and LHS squads have embraced the concept and support each other. It's not unusual to find most of the LMS wrestlers at a LHS home tournament or to see the high school wrestlers helping run a middle school meet. It shouldn't seem out of the ordinary to see Andrews' middle school basketball players at an LHS girls' basketball game this winter, either.

"(At high school games) they'll be able to say 'This is exactly what we're doing,'" Andrews said of his middle school players. "They'll be able to say 'That's my spot, and Emily's running this and this is where I should be, and they can compare it to what they're doing.' In a perfect world they'd even ask, 'Hey, we did this. How do you guys do that?'"

So far, both coaches are pleased with the results they've seen at both levels of their programs. The LMS wrestlers have had a strong season as many first-time grapplers have shown plenty of promise on the mat. Meanwhile, Averill's high school squad looks to be as strong as ever with six state qualifiers back from last year's team.

"I think it's been a very positive thing for our program with the way we have them from middle school to high school," Averill said.

On the hardwood, the results have been equally stellar. Both the seventh- and eighth-grade girls' teams are 10-0 (UPDATE THIS WEDNESDAY MORNING) and his LHS squad has shown steady improvement as its Dec. 9 season-opener nears.

With the LMS season wrapping up and the LHS season kicking off, both coaches said they're ready to narrow their focus to just one team. For a while at least, the double-duty will be over.

"I'll be glad when Saturday is done," Andrews said. "My son asked me if I was excited for the first (high school) game. I said, 'I'm more excited for Saturday than for the first game. I've coached high school games before. It's not that big of a deal.' I'll be glad to just coach one practice at night. That'd be good."

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