Inaugural Leadership Development


As the next class of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Leadership Alliance is selected, those who took part in the first class are praising what it was like to go through the developmental course. 

“I am always impressed with how football coaches see the big picture,” said Kurt Phelps, one of 13 coaches to go through the program. “Yes, we love football, love competing, love the X’s and O’s, and all that comes with that side of the game, but the reality is that football is about developing relationships and building up young men.” 

The leadership alliance course gives an opportunity for a few selected coaches statewide to network and learn from veteran coaches.  

‘In all my years with the association, I believe this is one of the best things we have done,’ said new MHSFCA Executive Director Andrew Pratley. ‘Selecting coaches who are looking to learn from some of the best coaches in the state to improve their craft and thus improving the experiences for young people all over the state is extremely exciting.” 

Patterned after the American Football Coaches Association’s 35 Under 35 program, the MHSFCA developed its program to assist with the professional development of coaches throughout Michigan. Through an intensive leadership training program, coaches learn from some of the top coaches in the state and create a network to build from in the future. 

“It’s a great chance to learn and reflect,” Pratley said. 

Phelps, from Vicksburg, said he enjoyed listening to other coaches talk about how their programs are structed as much as anything. 

“I thought it was really interesting to hear from different successful coaches about how they structured and ran their programs,” he said. “They were all different, and yet they were all successful.  There are a lot of different ways to get the job done, finding what works best for your situation in your school and community is sometimes the more difficult challenge.” 

Kyle McElvany has been a head varsity coach and assistant coach for years. It’s never too late to be part of a development program, he said.  

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to have learned from even more great coaches than I already have in my 18-year career thus far and I look forward to applying them,” said the current Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central assistant. “ 

McElvany was paired with a mentor, Jim Ahern, the former head coach at Lansing Central Catholic. He said Ahern became a sounding board for him during the season. 

“Listening to various coaches’ experiences and comparing them to my own and the lessons I’ve learned along the way in my career was an eye-opening experience,” McElvany said. 

Isaiah Gourdine, from Harper Woods, said being part of the program has helped broaden his own network. 

“One of the biggest takeaways I have received from the Leadership and Development Alliance was the importance of family and community involvement,” he said. “By incorporating my family with my position as a head coach, I am able to remain transparent and consistent with those around me.” 

Several coaches expressed gratitude about hearing how family plays a tremendously important role in coaching.  

Stoney Creek’s Brian Thomas said one of the more consistent messages he heard from the panel of successful coaches was how they developed a standard and stuck to it. 

“After listening to all of the speakers, the X’s and O’s don’t mean as much as they did before,” Thomas said. “They’re still a ton of fun, I just find myself realizing that it doesn’t matter so much what scheme or schemes are implemented, so long as you have a standard in which kids play up-to.” 

The first MHSFCA Leadership Development Allliance included: 

  • Tommy Atkinson – Whittemore-Prescott 
  • Jeff Bacholzky – Almont 
  • Trevor Dobruk – Woodhaven 
  • Jack Ginn – Allendale 
  • Isaiah Gourdine – Harper Woods 
  • Eric Hartsell – Carsonville Port Sanilac 
  • Ian ller – Redford Union 
  • Michael Mach – Detroit Catholic Central 
  • Kyle McElvany – Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 
  • Matthew Peterson – Midland Dow 
  • Kurtis Phelps – Vicksburg 
  • Alex Smith – Holton 
  • Brian Thomas – Stoney Creek