Mike has been actively involved and associated with lacrosse in Michigan for over thirty-five years as a player, coach, official and volunteer. After playing at the University of Michigan in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Mike returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids. There, along with Tom Mitchell and Bert Smith, he helped organize the Grand Rapids Lacrosse Club (GRLC), the second lacrosse program in West Michigan. Many of the current teams in West Michigan can trace their origins to the GRLC. Mike played, coached and managed the GRLC for almost twenty years. While with the GRLC, Mike also served as an officer (and ultimately president) of the Midwest Club Lacrosse Association (MCLA).
While obtaining an MBA at Michigan State, Mike served as a graduate assistant coach for Michigan
State’s varsity team under the leadership of Rich Kimball.
Realizing that a chapter affiliation with the US Lacrosse Foundation (now US Lacrosse) would benefit
the growth of lacrosse in West Michigan, Mike, along with Tom Mitchell, Bert Smith and Rich Kimball, among others, formed the West Michigan Chapter of the US Lacrosse Foundation. The West Michigan Chapter evolved into the present Michigan Chapter of US Lacrosse. Mike served on the initial Board of Directors and was secretary and general counsel for the chapter for several years.
Since completing his playing career, Mike has been a volunteer youth coach with East Grand Rapids and a high school and college official. For the last seven years, he has been the head varsity lacrosse coach at Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Congratulations to Mike for all his hard work and dedication for our game. His foresight has paid great dividends toward the advancement of
lacrosse for all our Michigan players. He is truly a Michigan Man.
Jen picked up lacrosse in college at Ohio Wesleyan University during her sophomore year after wanting to transfer somewhere to play softball. Her basketball and soccer coach told her they would find something for her to play in the spring season. They choose lacrosse and from the moment she first stepped on the field she was hooked.
After graduation, she was working in a gym in Grosse Pointe. It was there that she met US Lacrosse Hall of Fame member Debbe Pavle who convinced her to give coaching a try. In her first year of coaching, Jen had 31 players on the Grosse Pointe South (GPS) High School junior varsity team. Needless to say Jen would tell you that she has learned a lot about coaching and teaching since then. Whether learning a new offense, defense, drill, skill or just how to motivate and teach, she finds herself growing and getting better every year. This was recently evidenced by her decision to pull her goalie late in the 2012 State Championship game to provide an extra field player. This tactic completely changed the dynamics of the game and allowed her team the opportunity to win.
After 4 years at GPS, she moved to the already very strong Birmingham Women’s Lacrosse program. Jen has been with this program for the past 11 years. During
this time, Jen started the Detroit Lacrosse Club (DLC). DLC was started so girls in Michigan would get more exposure to higher level lacrosse. Additionally, during these eleven years, Jen coached both the Birmingham junior varsity and varsity teams for four years, coached the University of Michigan Women’s Club lacrosse team for four years, coached the Great Lakes National Tournament Team two years, and is currently coaching the Birmingham Girls Lacrosse Middle School teams. Like many present and past US Lacrosse-Michigan Hall of Fame inductees, Jen is very busy in the spring lacrosse season.
Jen has coached a number of other sports, including tennis, basketball and soccer, as well as training numerous middle school through college athletes, Jen feels blessed to have been given the opportunity to be a small part in the lives of so many kids simply through their participation in athletics.
Jen’s time commitments have been substantial, but she has been able to manage them with the help from a large and varied support group. Jen is thankful to all of these individuals and groups. These supporters include: the parent boosters who have organized the programs and fundraising so she could focus on coaching; the other coaches in the league who have been there to help, support and challenge me to get better; my friends who I have been fortunate to coach along-side, for without these individuals and groups, Jen would not be in the position she is today. Furthermore, Jen would like to thank the kids who have actually bought
into the system, worked above and beyond, trusted Jen’s leadership and allowed Jen to be a part of their lacrosse and life experiences. To all of those people, Jen says, “thank you.”
Anyone involved in girls’ lacrosse in Michigan will tell you that Jen Dunbar is special, as a coach, mentor, ally and even more important, as a person. She is one of a kind.
Mike started his sports career by swimming in AAU, high school and college, plus participated in several years of club fencing. His team sports activity didn’t come into play until his boys started growing up. He started with coaching soccer until his son, in the spring of 1988, informed him that he wanted to play lacrosse at Our Lady of Sorrows. By the next year, he was coaching lacrosse.
In 1990, Novi Parks and Rec. Middle School team played their first game against Our Lady of Sorrows. This connection with Don Sill stimulated a collaboration to run several lacrosse camps. Mike became involved in getting the boys program into the Novi schools and later became Novi’s first Middle School Boys’ coach. Several of his players continued to expand their skills and played and coached at the college level.
During this time, Mike was also the middle school league coordinator and an executive board member of the US Lacrosse Michigan Chapter.
In 1994, Mike’s son was looking for a place to play lacrosse, so he approached Catherine Cost at Farmington High School about using their fields for a community lacrosse program. That year, Mike continued coaching the Novi Middle School boys lacrosse team, plus the Farmington Community High School Boys team and also got his start in the girls game by coaching a girls team. It was a busy spring for Mike.
The community boys’ team were a combination of students from North Farmington, Harrison and Farmington High Schools, plus some players that went to private schools who lived in the area. The girls’ team consisted of students from the Farmington High Schools but also students from Farmington Hills Mercy. Mike continued coaching three teams for several years and later assisted coaching while doing administrator duties. In 2000, Farmington Schools accepted lacrosse as a varsity sport. The varsity status formalized the united team for both boys and girls. It also stimulated the development of a new team for Farmington Hills, Mercy High School.
In 2003, Mike was elected president of the Michigan Women’s Scholastic Lacrosse Association (MWSLA). The responsibilities included working with the officials to coordinate team schedules and maintaining the league’s activities. In 2005, the MHSAA accepted lacrosse as a varsity sport and the Farmington schools’ athletic directors took over the management of the team activities. The MWSLA evolved to become a coaches organization and the name was changed to the Michigan Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association. Mike continued as president of this group and was instrumental in its early growth and development.
During the six years Mike was president of these organizations, he was on the first MHSAA Lacrosse Committee before and after the inclusion of lacrosse. Mike is presently the Varsity Head Coach of the Farmington High School girls’ lacrosse team. His players have moved on to the college level and contributed in the development of both high school and college teams.
Mike is very proud of the number of his former players who have moved on and started a number of new lacrosse programs. These former players have started middle school, high school and college teams. He especially enjoys when a former player or their parents will stop him and thank him for teaching the child to honor and love the game of lacrosse. Mike has been called a Johnny Appleseed for the game of lacrosse in Michigan.
It is entirely appropriate that Tom Mitchell is being inducted into the US Lacrosse Michigan Chapter Hall of Fame since it was through his efforts that the Michigan Chapter of the Lacrosse Foundation was formed in his basement almost thirty years ago! Tom had a visionary idea that lacrosse could grow to be much more than just a men’s club team in Grand Rapids, and along with Bert Smith and fellow HOF members Mike Campbell and Rich Kimball, the Lacrosse Foundation Michigan Chapter was born in 1983.
Tom grew up in St. Michaels, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He attended the Friends School in Baltimore, Maryland, and was a member of their lacrosse team that won the Baltimore City Championship in the late 1930’s – some very good competition. When Friends School started a Hall of Fame, Tom was inducted in their inaugural class of candidates.
After graduating from Friends, Tom went to Penn State University, where he was an Honorable Mention All-America midfielder in 1943, and played in the 1942 North/South All-Star game, which was held at
Homewood Field on the campus of Johns Hopkins.
After college, Tom entered the Navy, a part of his life he was quite proud of, and managed to play lacrosse with the fabled Mt. Washington Lacrosse Club. When his career moved him to Grand Rapids, he believed lacrosse would never be a part of his life again. Little did he know that his love for the game would be the start of a grass roots lacrosse program that would produce thousands of future lacrosse
players. While starting lacrosse in East Grand Rapids, Tom was also the head coach of the Grand Rapids Lacrosse Club (GRLC).
The GRLC experience got his juices flowing again, and wanting to give his grandson the opportunity to play the game, Tom decided to get the sport started in the local schools. At this time the only teams in western Michigan were GRLC and a handful of college club teams in the area. A handful of high school teams existed in the Detroit area, but none anywhere “outstate.” It was Tom who started a STX Ball program
(lightweight plastic sticks and balls) in the East Grand Rapids middle school gym class, and a field team was organized a couple of years later. Tom also helped the Engels family get a program started in the neighboring Forest Hills school district. And for many years, those were the only two teams in outstate Michigan.
But what started as two high schools now encompasses over 30 programs, with an even larger number of middle school teams. While this reflects the national spread of the sport, Tom Mitchell’s impact on the sport of lacrosse in West Michigan is undeniable. Many of the area coaches are descendants of these two programs.
In 2009, Tom was inducted into the inaugural class of the Michigan High School Lacrosse Coaches Hall of Fame. A few seasons ago, the city of East Grand Rapids recognized Tom for his contributions to the sport. They had all of their teams – 3 high schools, 6 middle and grade school teams – all on the same field holding their sticks high to salute his accomplishments. It was a great moment in memory of a man who gave so much to the game. Congratulations, and
here’s to you – Tom Mitchell!
John Paul has had a remarkable influence on the game of lacrosse in Michigan considering he did not play in an organized game until college. Paul graduated from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in 1984; five years before boys lacrosse got its start there. He first learned the sport at Albion College, playing for the club team, before he transferred to Michigan and started playing for Michigan Hall of Fame Coach Bob DiGiovanni. Paul picked up the game quickly. He was a three-year captain at Michigan and was drafted in 1989 by the Detroit Turbos of the MILL.
Paul’s coaching career began at Pioneer while he was still in college. He was the school’s first JV coach and assisted Coach DiGiovanni during the initial years of the school’s new varsity squad from 1989 to 1992.
In 1998, Paul took over the Michigan club program. Over the next 14 seasons, he compiled a career record of 241- 44. His teams earned 13 straight Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) national tournament invitations (1999-2011), reaching at least the quarterfinals every year except one. Michigan captured an unprecedented three straight national club team titles from 2008-10 and 11 of the first 13 Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA) championships. Paul’s teams went 76-2 over his last four years as Michigan’s coach. He was also named the MCLA Coach of the Year on two occasions.
In 2011, Paul was instrumental in the University of Michigan (UofM) becoming the first BCS school since Notre Dame, 31 years before, to add men’s lacrosse as a varsity sport – a move that many have called the biggest news in the sport in decades. As a direct result of Paul’s efforts, he was named the US Lacrosse 2011 Person of the Year.
Subsequently, Paul was hired as the first head coach of the Michigan varsity team. The future for UofM lacrosse looks bright as this past
season three members of Paul’s first recruiting class earned ECAC All-Rookie honors. His players also excelled in the classroom and off the field, as 22 players earned conference academic honors and the team earned the Rachel Townsend Award, recognizing the UofM team that completes the most community service in a year.
Beginning in 2015, Paul will lead the Wolverines into Big Ten competition as the conference recently announced sponsorship of lacrosse. Additionally, Paul has extensive international coaching experience and has served on the US Lacrosse Board of Directors, the Executive Board of the US Lacrosse Coaches Council and as President of the MCLA.