A look inside Hamilton Sports, Interview with Mr. Haggerty

By: Aly Dyke, Emma Jennings, Caleb Topp, and Lukas Phillipi

Aly: What role do you play in the purple game?

Mr. Haggerty: “Honestly I have no role. When we did the pink game, started with the middle school students, I helped with the sorting of the shirts and the communications that went out. But with this one, the senior class,  I was asked for a reasonable date of what football game might work, and quite frankly, I have had zero involvement other than sending Unity’s AD information out so they could sell shirts if they wanted to, you know more about it than I do.”


Aly: Did Unity sell any shirts?

Mr. Haggerty: “Ayres came into my room today and told me they sold about 150 shirts”


Aly: Even though you don’t have a role in the purple game, do you have an expectation for how much money they will get?

Mr. Haggerty: “No, my thoughts center on the event of this is if it’s going to become an annual event, like our pink basketball game, and my concern or my decision to be made is that we can’t probably do both and get support, we’ll have to in the end, probably have to center on one of those. As you go out and ask businesses for support, they won’t do both purple game and pink game. This will probably lead to a discussion of is this going to be the fundraiser for cancer society, or is it going to be that (pink game)? I’m great with one of them, and if you ask people who have done this too, they will say the same thing I just told you. You do two or three of these, you will not get the communities support anymore, they’ll get behind one main event.”


Emma: “What has the football team (or coaches) been doing to avoid more of the concussions or injuries that we’ve seen in previous years?”

Mr. Haggerty: “ Going back three and four years, it has really just become a knowledge thing and we purchase good helmets.  We always have but have to be sure.  Helmets are rated one through five, with five being the best.  All of our helmets are a five rating so we make sure when buying helmets that they are rated highly.  There is some question of the validity of the tests that rate these helmets but none the less, that is what’s out there at this point so we aren’t going to put our kids in a one or two helmet.  They’re in fives.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the most expensive but they are all rated highly.  We provide the warnings and provide information and we are cautious.  When a kid says that they don’t feel right or feel these symptoms, they’re out immediately without question.   These are all things that realistically we hope everyone is doing but certainly we are.  It’s so prevalent and prominent in the media now and everywhere else.  We follow the protocol  of being careful and safe to a tee.


Emma: Without involving sport passes, why do students not get a discount when paying entry fees for games compared to other schools that charge for example two dollars for students and five dollars for everyone else?

Mr. Haggerty: The big picture is that obviously athletics cost money and we’re trying to offset some costs.  Most schools have the same fee.  We have in the OK conference, the green, a five dollar fee.  Now that is supposed to be the same for everybody but we do have, as the host school, the right to change that for our people.  As has happened in the past when we have a two dollar night for students at a basketball game or a three dollar night.  Those are an attempt to draw extra people but I’m not sure it actually brings any extra people out.  We can definitely do that though and throw a couple of those in the year to help a little bit.  At away games it’s five bucks, that’s conference decided.  Ours, we do have some leniency and ultimately if Mr. Tebo were to tell me that we don’t care how much money we make it the gate, I’d be happy to let everyone in for free but that’s not going to happen.  We have large costs to offset.


Emma: What is the next field, court, or things like that you plan to improve on?  What takes priority right now?

Mr. Haggerty: Absolutely number one priority is the track.  It’s horrible.  It’s beyond it’s lifetime.  Tracks are 15-20 years and we are on year 19 or 20.  Because our football field doesn’t drain, you’ve seen that whenever we get a significant amount of rain, lanes one, two, and three are under water.  Because of that, it has eroded faster than it should have.  The track is the number one priority.  Other things are necessary but not as urgent.  The board has already identified that

as their number one thing that needs to happen athletically, along with the drainage of the football stadium.  Why spend the money to do a track if we don’t fix the drainage and end up with the same problem?


Emma: When you’re doing the track will the football field ever be changed to turf? Would that make a difference?  

Mr. Haggerty: I don’t know what is supposed to happen.  We are supposed to go up for a bond in May.  Starting in October and moving towards May, we’ll be gaging community interest of what do they want and what will they support.  We might, for example, think that we want to keep it grass but if community people say no and want to turf that thing.  If that’s what they want, we’ll go for it.  They might believe that things are a waste of money.  I’m not sure where that’s gonna end up.  There’s pros and cons to both but it will ultimately come down to what’s the community want.


Lukas: Do you think our sports will change to pay and play?

Mr. Haggerty: This is the funny thing. We already have the pay to participate now. It’s called your insurance fee. That’s what it is. We just call it the insurance fee. Here’s why we call it that. Because we only want to charge only enough, we have an insurance premium. We have an insurance premium for all of your coverage. We try to charge just enough to cover that and make that back up because that’s one of our expenses. So our premium is about $40,000. By us charging 40 at the high school and 30 at the middle school, we make up most of all that. So, it really is a pay to participate. The second reason we call it the insurance fee is because then people actually know that they have that supplemental coverage. I’ll give you an example of that. My sister has a son that is in athletics in Jenison that got injured last year. She had $800 worth of medical expenses that her insurance wouldn’t pick up. Now what our insurance does is supplemental, what your insurance doesn’t cover, ours does. So she’s telling me about I got these $800 and I’m like doesn’t Jenison have supplemental? And she said what are you talking about? And I said yeah, what your insurance doesn’t cover, they do. I’d go ask them. So, she went in and asked them, and yeah. They do. They don’t know about it because they call theirs a participation fee. I’m sure there are some people that know, but she was one that didn’t because she had no idea that it was even provided. So, hopefully that flags people too that say hey wait a minute, I paid some insurance thing. I should call in and see what this is all about. In the future, I would anticipate that going up. If the state financing doesn’t change, I would anticipate that number to go up. We are cheap though. There are a lot of schools that charge $150 to $200 for participation.


Lukas: Besides the increase in insurance, do you see any other changes in our sports in 10 years?

Mr. Haggerty: Yeah. I think, globally, in the state of Michigan, if not nationally, the face of high school sports is going to change. And it’s going to change for the worse. I think we are going to lose programs, teams, and number one driving force is finances. And again, if that doesn’t change, something’s got to go, and that something, at some point, is going to be athletics. That’s one reason. A secondary reason is it is extremely difficult to find coaches. If you don’t have wonderful coaches, you don’t have teams. So, there is a multitude of different reasons, but I think in the next 5 to 10, you will start to see athletic programs will be less than they are now. Fewer programs. I saw a thing that ticked me off that I saw on television the other day. If one of you saw it, let me know. I was probably watching college football. And there was a stat shown that was during commercial. I just saw the end of it and I said what was that from? What was the purpose of that commercial? But, what I saw was that by 2020, 27% of did you see it?

Aly: I know what you are talking about, I don’t know what, but I know what you are talking about.

Mr. Haggerty: 27% of schools in the nation will not have any athletic programs. And I’m like dang it, why was that out there? Who sponsored that to be out there viral? I think it might have been attached to inner city problems. But, regardless, by 2020, 27% of schools in the state will not have high school athletic programs. That’s scary. And if that’s because of inner city schools, then we are really in trouble, financially for a lot of reasons. Maybe it’s mostly that, but, regardless, that starts a trend of well geez, if it’s in the inner cities, then it will be in the suburbs too. And then if it becomes okay in one district, it becomes okay with others. So, yeah, I think I was watching college football. I want to see that again to see what it was attached to and why it was out there on the television. That’s scary.


Caleb: How will that affect our conference, like cross country, they run against everyone in the conference at each meet every Wednesday. How will that affect the conference if, say, Byron Center drops out because they can’t afford to run their cross country team?

Mr. Haggerty: Good question. There would be one less school, but there are also our conference guidelines that say you have to offer such and such sports. Bottom line is if a school says they aren’t going to do it, they aren’t going to do it. We’re not there yet, but in that example, you just run without Byron. But, in some other sports, that could create a huge problem with the schedule. And when you think about the financial piece, one of the things that could happen is, in terms of athletic programs, we would just play less. If you have shorter seasons and play less, it would cost less money. So, those could be things that could happen. Rather than losing programs, we would shorten seasons, cut down on the amount of games, that sort of thing to save some expenses so we don’t have to lose cross country teams or baseball teams or soccer teams. Again, that’s a way down the road, I don’t make that a focus. It scares me. If I was 30 years old, sitting in this position, I would be worried that we even have an athletic department in that spot. Not because it is way over the net, but because I won’t be around for that long. But, still worried because I think there is a great positive value in sports.


Lukas: Are there any sports that you see as getting safer in the future?

Mr. Haggerty: Safer as in physical health? All of them. I think that sports have never been safer than they are right now. What’s scary about it is that you may think, how can that be? Well, because we hear about the injuries more as, actually, a good thing, in terms of safety. Before, you just rubbed some dirt on it and get in there and play. Oh, you get a dinger, ha ha ha. You don’t know those days. I was a high school football player. Someone would get a, you call it a dinger, you got a concussion. And they had no memory. A buddy of mine was sitting on the bench going where am I at? Dave, you’re at a football game. Oh, I am. And he hops up and goes I’m the coach, I’m the coach. And he was just out, he went out, he went back in there and played. We laughed about that stuff 30 years ago and now, boom, you’re out, you’re out for probably 2 weeks with a concussion that bad. So, truly, I always think to make it safe, we take better care of our players, and be more knowledgeable about them. We’re safer. So, I feel secure in that statement that our high school sports are the safest they have ever been.


Caleb: How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?

Mr. Haggerty: That is a great question… Honestly it is urgency. There are things that are happening tonight and need to get done. And there is medium urgency and low urgency. I’ll give you an example for today. Low urgency would be filling some holes in the spring schedule. It needs to get done sometime in the next three months so it is low urgency. What is happening tonight, Freshman and JV Football, is top priority. Making sure that everything is in place…It is dotting our “I’s”crossing our “T’s”. A day never happens the way you plan it. I can have six things that I am hoping to get done and I am lucky if I only get two done. You always get derailed in some way. I can’t explain it but it just happens every day.


Caleb: What do you think the biggest Challenge facing our athletic department is right now?

Mr. Haggerty: Finances will continue to be a challenge. Three years ago I was asked to cut $60,000 from the budget and that wasn’t easy because we are lean already. When you are not extravagant and you are asked to cut $60,000 it is tough to do. So finances are a struggle.


Caleb: When $60,000 is cut from your budget how do you decide which projects get the money to be completed and which ones will stay on the to-do-list?

Mr. Haggerty: Top priority is always to not cut programs if possible. Now in the case of cutting the $60,000 we had to cut the B-Teams at the middle school because that was the only way to make a significant cut. I didn’t want to do it but we had to.


Caleb: Do you see any more cuts coming in the future and how would you handle them when faced with more cuts?

Mr. Haggerty: I don’t see the necessity to cut anything in the near future. If we do see more cuts one thing you might see is if we have  JV and  Freshman teams you might see us cut the freshman teams. Maybe that has to become one combined Freshman team. There is no talk of any more cuts but if there would be any that would be a way we could handle them.


Caleb: Muskegon Heights had their first two home games altered because of a string of violence and shootings in the area. One team moved the game to their field but another team canceled the game altogether. How would you handle this if Hamilton had a Varsity Football game in Muskegon Heights?

Mr. Haggerty: We are not going to go somewhere that I feel is unsafe. Plain and simple.


Caleb: People say if you aren’t moving forward you are moving back. How is the athletic department continuing to move forward?

(Mr. Spotts walks in)

Mr. Haggerty: Because we still have Coach Spotts…

Mr. Spotts: Can I answer that question for him? In the day where budgets are getting cut, for us to maintain all that we have had through all those years, with all those cuts, it is actually moving forward. We are constantly working with our coaches through training and observations to make them better coaches.

Mr. Haggerty: It is amazing, as we looked at the budget, what we have maintained with the same budget for years.


Caleb: How do you handle absences by athletes on our teams?

Mr. Haggerty: I don’t… That is under the control of each coach. What they consider an excused absence and what they consider an unexcused absence is up to them. That isn’t on me. I will say this though: my feeling is that participation in athletics is purely a privilege. Some people have lost that privilege in the past by not being a good representative of their team, their school, and their community.