By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI
---- — MAPLE CITY — In the past two years the Glen Lake football team has won 16 regular season games and won a game in each of the last two playoffs.
But an argument can be made the Lakers are doing their best work off the field.
For the second straight year Glen Lake has won the Steve Spicer Memorial Team Leadership Award, an honor handed out annually by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. The award is presented each year to a select few teams in the state for being actively involved in community service-type work. This year the Lakers put in 472 hours of community service on a variety of projects to help the team earn the award.
“It’s just one of those things that we strive for every year,” said Glen Lake head coach Jerry Angers. “I think it means that we’re doing the right things with these kids. They’re unbelievable.”
Throughout the year Angers’s team takes on several different tasks, including helping the Glen Lake Women’s Club haul books for the group’s book fair each summer, volunteering to get roughly 1,000 competitors’ kayaks out of the water during the M-22 Challenge and assisting the DNR with building trails, cleaning up trash and stacking wood in the Pigeon River Forest. On Sunday, more than a dozen members of the team went to Grand Traverse Mall and used money earned from the team banquet to buy close to $900 worth of Christmas gifts for the needy.
“I think this is our fourth year of Christmas shopping. Jennifer Lee organizes it for me,” Angers said of the gift-buying initiative. “She has all these little envelopes with the sizes and how much everything is going to cost to buy the things. The kids drive into the mall, a 30-minute drive, they shop for an hour and a half and have a half-hour drive home, taking time of their own. It’s them being able to do that, knowing there’s going to be a smile on the faces of the kids with Christmas gifts they probably couldn’t afford.”
Word has spread over the past few years that the Lakers help out the needy at Christmas time. Angers had someone approach him last weekend to donate a new Nintendo system and games, along with a check for $200.
“(She) came up to me at the hockey game on Friday and said, ‘I heard what you do with taking care of people that are needy and things like that. I just want to give to you to help give to them,’” said Angers.
Angers said the school fields calls all the time asking if the team has time to lend a hand. For instance, he sent a couple of players over to an older lady’s home a few months ago to help move furniture.
“It’s just great for the kids and great for the community,” he said. “Our biggest thing is we like to give back to the community that supports us on Friday nights. I started in my first year, but it wasn’t as big. It’s starting to grow now. Four strong years with it.”
Senior quarterback/defensive back Carter Lee said the community service is just part of being a member of the Glen Lake squad.
“It goes way past just playing the game when it rolls around,” said Lee. “It’s a year-long thing. It’s great. You get to see the guys all the time. You’re doing stuff constantly, building up the team.”
Angers agreed, saying it’s become embedded in the culture of Laker football.
“It’s one of the things I tell the kids. If you want to play for us, we’re going to teach you to be outstanding citizens,” Angers said. “It’s one of the things we talk about every year. We’re trying to develop young men. Football is great. Winning a state championship is great. We focus on our grades as well as community service as well as being great leaders. We want them to understand what it is to give back.”
The Spicer Award was started in 1999 to honor high school football programs across the state who exemplify the legacy left by Spicer, a member of the Fooball Coaches Hall of Fame and former head coach at Fowler who died from cancer.
“It’s such a great award to get,” said Carter Lee. “We have such a small community. Everybody knows everybody so you do one thing, then after a game somebody will say, ‘hey, great game, also thanks for helping out so much this summer.’ It’s great to make all those contacts and have people respect you so much around the county.”
Area coaches and teams have been fairly regular winners of the Spicer Award, including Angers and the Lakers being one of the 2012 recipients. The other local winners, followed by the year, are: Jason Leonard of Kingsley, 2009; Jim Webb of Cadillac, 2008; Matt Stapleton of Frankfort and Tim Wooer of Kingsley, 2004; and Matt Prisk of Traverse City West, 2001.