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May 31, 2020

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15 minutes with Jenny (Sylak) Goodrich

Music teacher and softball coach in the UP; took her team to the regional finals

Icon: We understanding you are a high school teacher and softball coach.
Jenny: I teach and coach at Bark River-Harris High School in Michigan.

Icon: Where is it on the Michigan map?
Jenny: It’s in Harris, Michigan, about 10 miles northwest of Escanaba in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. About 10 hours from Bluffton.

Icon: What do you teach?
Jenny: I teach 4th to 12th  grade music, I organize and lead the K-3 Christmas program as well. This includes all concerts for 4th grade recorders/ukuleles, 5th grade beginning band, 6th grade band, 7th and 8th grade junior high band, 9th-12th grade high school band, which includes pep, concert and marching band, high school choir and a musical theater class that produces one play production each year. 

Icon: Are you serious?
Jenny: That’s my teaching load.

Icon: We understand that you have an amazing softball season this year.
We are a school varsity team, part of the Skyline Conference in Division 4 softball with the MHSAA (Michigan High School Athletics Association). We are the Broncos. Our colors are navy blue and gold.

Icon: And this year’s team record?
: 27-7

Icon: Tell more, please.
Jenny: We were Skyline Conference Champions (second year in a row). Then we won our district championship. This was the first title in our five years of having a varsity program. We advanced all the way to the regional championship game where we lost. We were the only team to win a district championship or conference championship this year at our school.

Icon: Only five years of softball and you coached your team all the way to the regional finals?
I coached all five years. This was my final year as the head coach. I am looking to help more with developing younger players in our area with Little League teams and our junior varsity team. This was the first year we had enough players for a JV and varsity teams. So we started as a JV team.

Icon: What position did you play in softball at Bluffton High?
I played catcher and 2nd base and was the captain for two years.

Icon: We understand Dan Gillett was your high school softball coach. What did you pick up from Dan in coaching?
He was my inspiration for softball. I started in junior high and as a freshman was on the JV team. I got pulled up for a few varsity games and the district game.

I will never forget, during the district game as a freshman, Dan threw me in to right field. We were down, and he decided to give me a shot on the field and hitting. I caught a fly ball and then hit and got onto first base. I was one of the only girls the entire year to get a base hit off of that pitcher and the varsity girls and Dan gave me the game ball.

From that moment, I was hooked! Dan said I should do an off-season sport to help stay in shape, so I joined the tennis team as a sophomore and ended up loving that sport as well.

Dan was a great coach because he was able to balance between being tough and being loving. You knew as one of his players, you were part of his family. But he didn't let you get away with slacking or not pushing to achieve bigger and greater things.

I remember he set myself and a few other players up as mentors and tutors for younger players who needed academic and social help. He was available for his players 24/7 and always made our lives and the sport his priority.

Dan was one of only a handful of people I invited to my wedding in 2014 and he came. It was the best surprise in the world. I wish everyone involved in high school sports across the nation had a coach as dedicated, supportive and kind as Dan.

Someone who takes the sport seriously, but also understands that high school sports should serve athletes in more ways than just a place to show off athletic skills. Varsity sports should develop teamwork, compassion, understandings, work ethic, a passion for the sport and responsibility. 

Icon: Tell us about the team photo attached with this story.
The first picture is of the team after we won the district championship. I'm in the front left, trophy is in the middle.

The second picture is our line-up preparing for the start of the regional championship game. We lost that final game 5-0 against Rudyard, with 5 unearned runs. Tough loss. But we had several girls get All-District Honors, two get All-Conference Honors, our pitcher, Eden Oswald, received All-State Honors and I was named the District Coach of the Year. 

Icon: Amazing! Thanks for sharing this with us.