John's Journal
A Selfless Act, A Hack Saw, And A Lesson For All 4/7/2014
This is one of those wonderful stories that goes beyond what happens in the athletic arena. I received an email from Ryan Giles, the girls basketball coach at Lac qui Parle Valley High School in Madison, who wanted to share a story about the selflessness of one of the players. There’s no need for me to put any spin on it, because Ryan’s email tells the story so well …

On Tuesday night the Lac qui Parle Valley basketball team held their year-end awards banquet. The team honored statistical leaders, all-conference players and West Central Tribune all-area players as well as the team’s individual awards. One of the awards was the MVP, which was given to junior guard and captain Alaysia Freetly.

Alaysia humbly walked to the front of all her teammates, the other players in our program and their parents and accepted the award with a firm handshake from head coach Ryan Giles. (On a side note, the firm handshake is something that is taught and practiced). Alaysia was chosen for the award by the coaching staff based on stats, leadership both on and off the court, her solid grades, and her involvement with our youth basketball program.

The banquet ended around 7:30 p.m. and just 12 hours later, Alaysia walked into coach Giles' classroom with the MVP plaque in hand. She wanted to talk. She demanded that coach Giles, who is an Industrial Technology teacher, take the MVP plaque back and cut it into thirds as she felt junior post Kaitlin Connor and eighth-grade point guard Kelsea Lund were just as deserving as she is. (Pictured here, left to right, are Kelsea, Alaysia and Kaitlin.) She went on to say that in some games they picked it up when she was struggling. She said she didn't sleep well thinking about it, talked with her parents and knew that cutting the plaque in thirds was the right thing to do because they deserve it!

Coach Giles put his skills to work, measured the six-inch wide plaque into thirds and used a hack saw to cut through the wood, team picture, plastic cover and engraved brass plate. A program meeting was called after school, where all girls from seventh through 12th grade gathered in coach Giles' classroom. Alaysia addressed the team and told them why the meeting was called. She explained, with the cut-up plaque in hand, that she felt Kaitlin and Kelsea were just as deserving as she is. She handed each of them a third of the plaque.

Emotions filled the room, tears of joy ran down the faces of both young and old players, others started cheering for the moment and everyone concluded with clapping for Alaysia and hugging her. The Lac qui Parle Valley girls basketball team found out that Alaysia was the MVP: the Most Valuable Person!

Alaysia has had a stellar high school career with her senior year coming up next! She also competes on our cross-country team and track and field team. In cross-country she is a four-time individual state qualifier and earned All-State honors last season as well as being the No. 1 runner for the LqPV/Dawson-Boyd team that placed second in Class 1A. On the basketball court Freetly has been a starter for two seasons, earning all-conference last year in the West Central and with the school moving to the Camden Conference she repeated as all-conference. She was also named to the West Central Tribune all-area team. Alaysia is closing in on 1,000 points for her career, which isn’t too bad for basketball being her third-best sport, stat-wise. In the spring, Alaysia is a among our state’s beat Class 1A milers. She qualified for the state meet the past two seasons and finished fifth last year representing LqPV/DB track and field team.

Academically, Alaysia takes all the rigorous courses that LqPV has to offer. Her GPA is 3.82. She is a member of our National Honor Society, youth coach for the cross-country, basketball and track and field elementary programs. Outside of school she is involved in her church youth group and recently was asked by the Minnesota Design Team to sit in on meetings to give a youth perspective on how to make a better Appleton, her hometown community!

I hope you are touched by this story as much as it has touched myself, the girls basketball team at LqPV, our school body and school community that serves many towns. Alaysia has heard from fellow competitors and coaches who have congratulated her on what she did. As her basketball coach and track coach I am so proud of her selfless act that demonstrates her true character. I've been fortunate to be part of a few conference, sub-section, section championships and a couple state championships, but what Alaysia did is what I'm most proud of.

Ryan Giles
Laq Qui Parle Valley High School
Industrial Technology Teacher
Head Girls Basketball Coach
Head Girls Track & Field Coach
Student Media Members Go Inside The Timberwolves 4/4/2014
By Nick Kelly
Lakeville North High School
MSHSL Student Media member

For high school basketball players, being able to play at Target Center is often a surreal moment. For Student Media correspondents like myself, being a member of the professional media at Target Center is just as a defining of an experience.

On March 23, Minnesota State High School League Media Specialist John Millea provided myself, along with three other aspiring journalists, the opportunity to be a part of the media for the Timberwolves game against the Phoenix Suns. (Pictured inside the Timberwolves locker room are JoNathan Chartrand, Chisago Lakes; Nick Kelly, Lakeville North; Matt Hoffman Lakeville North; Nathan Jones, Jackson County Central.)

Once everyone had arrived in the main lobby, John led us to the Timberwolves main office where vice president of communications Brad Ruiter greeted us. At this point, we parted with our families as they were given tickets to the game and we were given media passes.

We were led to a conference room, where we had a question-and-answer session with Star Tribune Timberwolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda and the radio voice of the Timberwolves, Alan Horton. Throughout our brief time together, the overall message was that as journalists, the earnings may not be the same as doctors or lawyers, but as Jerry Zgoda said, “It doesn’t feel like work.”

Afterwards, we made our way down to the Timberwolves locker room and not only stood outside it for Coach Rick Adelman’s pregame press conference, but we were allowed to look inside the locker room, as well.

Enjoying a fantastic pregame meal that all media members are provided with, we headed to our seats with full stomachs, ready to watch the Wolves from row five of the press seating area in the corner of the basketball court.

Holding a large lead in the first half, the Timberwolves suffered any extremely devastating 127-120 loss to the Suns. As we sat in on Coach Adelman’s 90-second postgame press conference, the frustration was clear in the coach’s voice. The disappointment of the team was best seen from star forward Kevin Love as he sat in his locker crouched over with his head down, as we observed the postgame locker room scene.

Our incredible experience ended with a photo of us four high school journalists in front of the press conference podium, beaming with smiles that would last a long time after that Sunday afternoon game in which we lived the life of a professional media member.
Football Decisions Among Actions Taken By MSHSL Board 4/3/2014
As the latest storm of the century sweeps across Minnesota, further delaying all manner of spring sports from actually being held outdoors, a definite sign of the times was issued from the MSHSL board of directors meeting Thursday morning.

One of the board members is Shelly Hotzler, who is the softball coach at Jackson County Central. The Huskies are believed to have hosted the only official softball game that has been played in Minnesota this season, defeating Mountain Lake Area 8-0 on Monday. They were scheduled to play at Martin County West in Sherburn on Thursday, but a Twitter message from Coach Hotzler – issued from the board table during the board meeting -- made pretty clear what was happening:

“Game has been postponed to a later date and no practice today. Get caught up on homework!!”

So there you go. Spring activities remain on hold while we wait for the weather to cooperate.

Now, about Thursday’s board meeting. It was preceded by a workshop/listening session in which five activities directors spoke about the plan for district football scheduling that is scheduled to begin in 2015.

Two of them, Dave Schroeder of Maple Lake and Tom Bauman of Buffalo, asked the board members to delay the start of district football until 2016.

“We’re all for district football, but give us time to put it together,” Schroeder told the board.

Three other activities directors spoke in favor of maintaining the 2015 implementation. They were Bob Madison of Mounds View, Les Zellmann of St. James and Jaime Sherwood of Wayzata.

“Delaying one more year is not serving (students) like we are called to do,” Sherwood said.

The board took no action on district football. Members may choose to make changes to the plan, but there was no discussion of that Thursday.

--On another football topic, the board rejected a recommendation from the Football Advisory Committee to change the Class 6A playoff format. Currently, the 32 6A teams face teams from their own section in the first round, then play crossover games with another of the four sections in the second round, with the winners moving to the state quarterfinals.

The proposal that was rejected Thursday included these changes: coaches in each eight-team section would seed their teams one through eight; one of six random brackets would be used, placing the 32 teams into one bracket according to where they were seeded in their section; brackets would consist of eight four-team subgroups; four of those subgroups woud have teams seeded 1, 4, 5 and 8, four other subgroups would have teams seeded 2, 3, 6 and 7. The top two seeds from each section could only meet in the Prep Bowl, two No. 1 section seeds could not meet before the state semifinals and the first two rounds of the playoffs would always involve teams from different sections.

The discussion by board members seemed to hinge on this question: How important is it to have the "best" teams play for a state title? Members seemed to feel that high school is not the same as college athletics, and the experience for all teams is more important than the playoff outcome.

--The board approved 10 proposed bylaw changes, but further action is required before they would take affect. The proposed changes will go to the MSHSL’s representative assembly, which will meet May 12. That 48-member group has the final say on bylaw changes.

Many of the bylaw proposals would add, adjust or change language, mainly as clarification. Two of the proposals go further …

*Transfer students would be ineligible for varsity competition at their new school for 15 calendar days. Students would be allowed to return to their former school during those 15 days without loss of eligibility. This proposal would allow families to reconsider a school move that does not work to the benefit of the student.

*Limits on summer football workouts. Minnesota has the most liberal rules in the country in regard to what is allowed during the summer in regard to football practice. The proposal does not restrict the number of days that football coaches can have contact with players, but it does require additional safety and protection for student-athletes by limiting full pads and full contact until after an acclimatization period, limiting the length of workouts and prescribing rest periods.

--A decision to have Academic Decathlon come under the MSHSL’s umbrella of programs was tabled until the board’s June meeting.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 403
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,368
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Waiting For Spring; MSHSL Board Meeting On Tap4/2/2014
Remember the spring of 2012? It was fantastic, with warm weather and dry ground overtaking our state in early March and everyone enjoying a wonderful outdoor season. Remember the spring of 2013? Well, the spring of 2014 so far is shaping up as a repeat of 2013, when cold, wet weather lingered on and on and athletic schedules were red-lined, ripped up and nearly everything was postponed or downright cancelled.

The forecast this week is certainly not promising, with rain, snow and possibly locusts, icebergs and zombies terrorizing Minnesota before all is said and done. So what do we do at times like this? We stay indoors and attempt to throw baseballs and softballs, hit golf balls, flex tennis and lacrosse muscles, etc.

My first spring event of the year was a quadrangular track meet Tuesday at St. Michael-Albertville. This was an indoor meet, thankfully … the sun was shining bright but the cold wind was a-blowin’. St. Michael-Albertville has an indoor fieldhouse that is an absolute showplace, with five running lanes, areas for pole vaulting, high jumping, shot putting and long/triple jumping. On the upper level of the fieldhouse is another track, which community members were using Tuesday for walking, jogging and running.

The track teams involved were girls and boys squads from Rogers, St. Francis, Chisago Lakes and St. Michael-Albertville. There were lots of heats and flights, allowing a large number of athletes to compete.

In other indoor MSHSL news, the board of directors will meet Thursday morning at MSHSL World Headquarters in Brooklyn Center. The agenda is light on headline-making possibilities, but the board will make some important decisions and discuss some important points.

Before the official meeting begins, the board will hear information regarding district football, the new format that will begin in the 2015 season. No action on district football will be taken at Thursday’s meeting; the format has already been approved and the members will simply receive an update on the process.

There are four action items on the agenda. Two are schedule-related; the board is expected to approve its meeting dates through the 2014-15 school year as well as dates for state tournaments through 2016-17.

The third action item on the agenda involves several proposed amendments to MSHSL bylaws. If the board votes in favor of any amendments, they must also be approved by the MSHSL representative assembly, which is composed of 48 members from around the state. If any proposed amendments are approved by the board, the representative assembly will meet on May 12 to vote on them.

The proposed amended bylaws would: 1) clarify the amateur status bylaw; 2) add clarifying language to the chemical eligibility bylaw; 3) clarify language regarding the summer no-contact period; 4) clarify language regarding deadlines for applying for cooperative sponsorships.

The agenda includes three discussion items: 1) a proposed transgender policy; 2) MSHSL membership requirements pertaining to home schools; 3) MSHSL staffing.

I’ll be live Tweeting from the board of directors meeting. You can follow me on Twitter; I’m @MSHSLjohn

In the meantime, let’s hope for nice weather.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 403
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,368
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Timberwolves Honor Bob McDonald, Welcome MSHSL Student Media3/25/2014
When the Timberwolves played host to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon, a high school basketball coaching legend and the MSHSL Student Media program were part of the NBA day.

The Timberwolves honored retired Chisholm coach Bob McDonald at center court during halftime, presenting him with a basketball that was autographed by the Timberwolves players and a Timberwolves jersey with the number 1,012 on the back, representing how many games McDonald’s teams won during his 59-year coaching career.

Prior to the game, McDonald and three of his sons (Tom, Mike and Joel are all high school boys basketball coaches) posed for a photo at center court. After the halftime ceremony McDonald spent a few minutes chatting with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

Bob McDonald is of Croatian ancestry, travels to Croatio every summer and speaks Serbo-Croation. Before the second half began he and the Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic chatted briefly in Serbo-Croation.

The McDonald family watched the game from a Target Center suite.

This weekend, Bob McDonald will serve as a head coach for one of the teams during the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association boys all-star series. His son Joel, the coach at Hibbing, will be one of his all-star assistant coaches. All-star games will be held Friday at St. Cloud State and Saturday at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Two hours before game time Sunday, four high school students who are members of the MSHL Student Media program met me at Target Center for an afternoon filled with behind-the-scenes experiences. This is the third year in a row that the Timberwolves have hosted Student Media members for a game, and the students always have a great time. The Timberwolves also provided free tickets to the game for the students’ family members.

The students invited to the game were (pictured, left to right) JoNathan Chartrand of Chisago Lakes, Nathan Jones of Jackson County Central, Matt Hoffman of Lakeville North and Nick Kelly of Lakeville North.

Before the game began, the students met in the Timberwolves conference room with Minneapolis Star Tribune Timberwolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda and Timberwolves radio broadcaster Alan Horton. The media pros talked about their career paths, offered advice to the student journalists and answered questions.

The students received media credentials, meaning they had access to everything that professional media members do on a daily basis. The students visited the Wolves locker room before and after the game and watched the game from media seats. They also watched Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman’s pregame press briefing and his more formal postgame news conference.

All in all, it was a great day. Thanks to the Timberwolves!

--To see more photos of Bob McDonald as well as the Student Media experience, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,194
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn