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PSL East coaches show love for the game

Cass Tech and Denby coaches say the pay isn’t the reason they coach Detroit’s youth

By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Julie Schneider and Ivan King are softball coaches in the Detroit Public School League, and they’re coaching the game they love: softball.

King, 39, has been coaching at Denby High School for eight years — the first four as an assistant coach. He was approached by then Denby Head Coach Jaquetta Sands to help as an assistant. Four years later, she moved to Mobile, Ala., and he took over. While he was an assistant, he knew he had a lot of work to do.

 Denby High School Head Coach Ivan King CHUCK JOHNSON PHOTO

Denby High School Head Coach Ivan King
CHUCK JOHNSON PHOTO

“The interest is there,” King said. “I found out that there was a lot interest in the game. But when they came out for the team, the girls didn’t know what the game of softball was or really how to play it.”

He added that most of the girls are good students who maintain their eligibility, and after teaching them the basic fundamentals, many of the girls caught on.

According to King, the three most popular sports for girls at Denby (in order) are basketball, volleyball and softball. The other sports — track, cross country, swimming and tennis — lag behind.

“It’s hard to get girls at Denby to go outside basketball because it has the most professional athletes girls can relate to,” King said.

He added that volleyball was popular because they had a quality coach (who is now retired) that really developed the program at Denby. Because they were one of the top teams on the east side and, at times, in the city, many girls came out for the team.

Hard work and patience has paid off for King and his Denby team. The Tars finished second in the PSL East with an 8-1 record and defeated Mumford in the playoffs (19-14).

Although they were massacred by Renaissance in the semi-finals (33-1), the Tars had the opportunity to play in the consolation game at the PSL Championship against Western International. They were defeated 13-2 and finished with 9-5 record.

Schneider, 31, was a coach in the Police Athletic League in 2008. Some of the girls she coached played for Cass Tech. She was hired by Cass Tech in 2009.

“The name Cass Tech means success, not just on the field or in the classroom but in Detroit in general,” she said. “When you say Cass Tech, everyone expects the best. The pressure is on me.”

Since Schneider has taken over, the Lady Technicians have dominated and ruled the PSL East for five straight years. The only thorn in her side: Renaissance. They have yet to win a PSL title.

Schneider said she’s very fortunate to coach at Cass Tech because half of the girls come in with experience, having already played the game and possessing the basic skills. The other half has very little, if any, experience.

According to Schneider, the more experienced girls have played summer ball. Between 30 and 45 girls come out for the team, but as the practices get tougher, she usually ends up with 20 players.

Schneider says she schedules several games outside the city around the PSL schedule to give the girls more exposure. The girls have played against Country Day and Macomb Dakota. Schneider said the team plays between 28-29 games a season before the state playoffs to give her girls the experience to get better as a team.

But to Schneider, there’s more than just softball she wants to teach her girls.

“I want them to learn the value of teamwork and leadership and grow as people, not just to be better softball players,” she said.

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