Commitment the key word

Listen to Julie Filpus talk about her basketball teams and one word often comes up:


It’s the hallmark of the successful Houghton High School girls’ basketball coach, who has already recorded more than 300 victories at HHS and currently has her team in the Class C state semifinals.

Of course, Filpus isn’t the only local coach who expects a total committment from their players.

Calumet High hockey coach Jim Crawford hasn’t won more than 75 percent of his games and six state championships by not having a solid organizational plan.

The Copper Kings under his tutelage have been a team that consistently puts in the time to get better.

Ontonagon girls’ basketball skipper Dick Franti is another good example of a coach who expects his players to attend summer camps and practice on their own in the off-season.

Franti’s record – both as a boys’ and girls’ hoops coach – certainly shows the results.

Former Lake Linden-Hubbell football coach Ron Warner was another mentor who demanded a full commitment from his charges. His 231-59-1 record was testament to a solid work ethic by his teams.

“When you went into camp in August, you knew that you had better be in shape,” recalled former player Ken Klein, who starred at Northern Michigan University and coached at Houghton High. “Ron was a no-nonsense kind of coach.”

Over the past 20 years or so, we’ve seen an increasing number of kids who go out for athletic teams without much preparation … and expect to play right away.

The result is an increasing number of sports teams (football, hockey and basketball specifically) who just aren’t ready to compete when the bell rings.

That’s why you’re seeing more and more of those embarrassing scores nowadays. There’s no fun in a 56-0 score in football, a 10-0 rout in hockey or a 94-15 (actually a score this year in girls’ district basketball play) laugher.

But in less-publicized sports like swimming, cross country and skiing there’s a different scenario.

The youngsters who take part in those sports often have have to get up at ungodly hours just to practice.

The parent of a Houghton High swimmer once told me that practices were often held at 6 a.m.

I can’t imagine getting up that early just to practice, but a lot of kids have been doing just that for years.

Cross country competitors and skiers also have uneven schedules that force them to practice on their own.

To be successful, they realize that commitment is the key word.