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Athletic Director of the Year
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Ann Lowney reflects on her eight years as Athletic Director at Everest Academy and Everest Collegiate High School

EC Basketball with Ann Lowney
Ann Lowney accepts the league trophy for her EC team

Clarkston, Michigan -- “My dad always said that it didn’t matter what career I chose – ditch digger or doctor – but I better be the best darn ditch digger or doctor I could be.”

These are the words of Ann Lowney, quoting her father, Albert Serra, who was father of 10 children, five boys and five girls, of which she is the youngest girl and 8th child.

Ann took time from her busy schedule as Athletic Director (AD) for Everest Collegiate High School (EC), to discuss her most recent accolade – being named the Archdiocese of Detroit Catholic High School League (CHSL) “Tom Kelly” Athletic Director of the Year.  The award is named in honor of the late Harper Woods Notre Dame Athletic Director and Coach.   The award is voted on by all the ADs in the Catholic High School League, and is presented annually to a league athletic director who best exemplifies Kelly’s good sportsmanship.  Ann will be presented the award at the CHSL Hall of Fame Day on June 10th.

A Successful Career

After playing for Oakland University’s basketball team from 1986-1990, she served as head coach for the Clarkston High School girls’ basketball program for 8 years, and currently is head coach for the Everest Collegiate High School boys’ basketball team, as well as the school’s Athletic Director.  After her 8 years as head of the Everest sports program, the school has plenty to brag about.  This year, Ann was forced to commission the construction of a new trophy case to hold all the “iron” now gracing the halls outside the school’s gymnasium.

Notable EC achievements include: the girls’ competitive cheerleading squad winning the Catholic High School League title for their division, as well as their district title; the girls’ basketball team winning their Intersectional league championship three years in a row, and this year winning their first district title; the boys’ basketball team winning their league title for the second year in a row, and also their second consecutive district title this year.  Both coaches for the boys´ and girls´ teams were named Coach of the Year for their divisions -- the girls coach, Erin Van Wagoner, won that honor three years in a row. And Ann has been named Catholic High School League Coach of the Year for the second year.  These honors do not even mention all the success of the many Everest sports offered through the school’s cooperative programs with Our Lady of the Lakes and Shrine high schools, whose teams have won awards at the local, regional and even state level.

These cooperative programs are part of the
Ann Lowney
Ann Lowney, Athletic Director for Everest Collegiate High School
reason for Ann’s success, as well as for the tremendous growth of the sports program at Everest Collegiate.  Everest Academy has been in existence since 1991, but the school only opened its high school in 2008.

The majority of the sports co-op programs offered at Everest is through a partnership with Our Lady of the Lakes, a Catholic school in Waterford, Michigan, from which Ann is an alumnus.

“I don’t think anybody ever thought we could offer what we do now in our sports programs,” Ann said. “Our Lady of the Lakes offered us the ability to have an athletic program in our high school.  And, let’s be honest, you won’t get many students without a sports program in Michigan.”

The Planning Process

When Everest’s Executive Director Mike Nalepa told Ann they were going to start a high school at Everest, he needed to know how they could best get a sports program going with just an initial freshman class.  He also recognized the value of offering sports.

“Both academics and athletics are important for a high school,” said Ann. “They go hand in hand.  And at Everest, we are trying to develop well-rounded individuals.  Athletics allows you to work together with a team.  It involves ethics and developing communications skills.  You take that, and combine it with knowledge, and you have a well rounded person.”

Mike and Ann discussed their options.

“We had two options, join the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) or the Michigan Christian Association,” said Ann.  “We felt the MHSAA was the best option because we wanted to compete in the Catholic High School League, and every school in that league is a member of the MHSAA.”

Ann discovered through her research that the MHSAA allowed cooperative programs.

“Forming co-op programs with other schools is a way for small schools to survive, but you have to think out of the box,” she said.  And Ann thought about Our Lady of the Lakes.

“Everybody said they will never agree to do it,” said Ann. “When we considered asking Lakes if they would agree to let us join with them, everybody said, ‘Why would Lakes help another Catholic school open?”

But Lakes did agree, and Ann is very grateful they did.

“We are different types of schools,” said Ann. “They are a parish school and co-ed.  They did not feel threatened by
EC team wins 2013 district title
Members of the EC boys' varsity basketball team pose after winning their 2013 district title. Coach Ann Lowney is on the left. Her husband Pat is third from the right, and her son Mitchell is in the front row, right.
us. They saw this program as a win-win.  We could both offer more programs and save money.”

Lakes used to have to pay rent for a golf course and tennis courts for their programs, said Ann, but because Everest has agreements with the Oakhurst Country Club (Clarkston, Michigan) Lakes could “take that off their books,” she said.

Because Lakes would use Everest’s “facilities,” Ann became the administrator of the golf, tennis and girls´ and boys´ soccer programs. “That is what I took off Lake’s plate,” she said.

Currently, Everest and Lakes offer sports cooperative programs in boys´ golf, girls´ tennis, boys´ and girls´ cross country, boys´ and girls´ track and field, boys´ baseball, girls´ softball, and boys´ and girls´ soccer.  And they are exploring other co-ops.  This year Everest and Lakes joined with Shrine High School in Royal Oak, Michigan, to offer boys´ ice hockey and next season the schools will add boys´ lacrosse.  The Shrine hockey team won their first league title this past season.

Exclusively Everest Teams

But as Everest has grown, the school has been able to take on many of their own teams exclusively.  Ann recounts the history:

“In our second year, we started our own boys´ basketball team and a sideline cheer program.  In our third year we added girls´ basketball and competitive cheer.  In our fourth year we started our own girls´ volleyball team.  Next year we will take on having our own boys´ football team.  And several of our sports teams also added junior varsity teams.”

“Every year my job has gotten bigger,” she said.

She believes the advent of boys´ football will be a huge factor in further growth for Everest Collegiate.

“Football is important to a school,” she said. “Football games are an event.  They are only played once a week, and always on the weekends.  It is a short season, with only four to five home games.  And people from the community outside the school come to these games. The festivities around hosting a homecoming event will now involve the whole high school and lower school, and will help us to grow.”

Previously, Everest Collegiate had only a “Snowcoming” dance and surrounding events for one game during the boys´ basketball season.

Everest parents can now claim a piece of the football excitement as well.  During the most recent Everest fundraising auction, participants were offered the opportunity to purchase “a piece of history,” buying a spot on the new football bleachers that will be carved into the hill on the Everest football field behind the school.  (Spots are still available! For more information, contact the Everest Development Assistant Courtney Crighton at 248-241-9006.)

Eight Years and Counting

Ann definitely has achieved a great deal since joining Everest Academy in 2005.  And her family definitely has been impacted.

“During the fall season, my job is seven days a week because of all the games at the academy level,” she said. “In the winter season, I only work five days a week, with Saturday and Sunday off.  You never get that in the fall.  In the spring, I get my biggest break because so much is played off campus -- baseball, softball, tennis, golf.  Soccer is the only sport on campus.  And I need all summer to regenerate, because fall is so difficult.  And now we added football!”

The Everest community definitely helps Ann where her children are concerned.  When she first joined Everest, her triplets, Mitchell, Grace and Serra, were just preschool age.  Now they are in 6th grade at Everest Academy.

“The way my kids have survived this is due to the Everest community stepping forward,” she said. “The parents help me out.  And one of our teacher’s has become my kid’s caregiver when I am traveling for games, etc.” 

“I have tried not to change their routine as much as possible,” she said. “My son Mitchell never wants to leave Everest, and would stay every minute of every day with my husband Pat and I.  And all three of them help me with things. They set up concessions and do tons of other things.  Mitch even does the book at games.”

Her Husband Joins the Team

Ann’s husband Pat has also now become part of the Everest team.  For his third year now, Pat has taken on managing the Athletic program for the lower and middle school.  “He has freed me to grow the high school program,” she said.

Prior to becoming AD for the Academy, Pat served as a special education instructor for Waterford schools.  And he has some sport’s accolades of his own, having coached the girls’ Junior Varsity program at Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for 20 years.  “He preceded me,” said Ann proudly.  “He has already been inducted into CHSL Hall of Fame for coaching.”

“Because of what Pat has taken over, especially in the winter, I am not up here as much on the weekends,” she said. “But, in the fall we both need to be here. I handle the gym and he handles the outside facilities.

Coaching in Her Spare Time

You would think Ann would be busy enough without adding to her responsibilities the coaching of the Everest Collegiate varsity boys’ basketball team.  She is apparently not the only AD who does something like this.  “Tons of ADs in the Catholic league coach too,” she said.

Ann coaches because she loves it, and because she feels she would be wasting her talents otherwise.

“God has given me certain talents and one is the ability to coach basketball.  It’s like my apostolate.  And I enjoy it, and I think I do a good job.  The boys like me, and as long as that continues I will continue to do it. My goal is to coach until my son graduates.”

Having already served as coach for her daughters’ teams in the past, her son wants Ann to be his coach “badly,” she said.  “I’ve been my girls’ volleyball and basketball coach on and off since they were in the fourth grade.” And she adds that Pat has been Mitchell’s coach as well.

The Worst Part

Though they have pretty much all the bases covered together, she and Pat have not learned how to control the weather.  This is her least favorite part of the job.

“Sometimes, I feel like all I do is stare at the radar screen,” she said. “I have to cancel games and make changes all the time.  Every season is affected by the weather.”

She recalls one time when an away team drove hours to get to an Everest baseball game, and the weather shifted and Ann had to cancel the game. “They were not happy,” she said.  Or the time she cancelled a basketball game because of the poor forecast, only to have things clear up by game time. “Then everybody yells at me,” she said with a sigh.

Serving a Small School    

When asked if she wishes her talents could be used at a larger school, she says no, because there is little difference between the two.

“The only difference between being at a small school and a big one is the commitment of the families and staff.  The best part of being here is the Everest students and families -- the relationships I have built.  They are my dearest friends.” 

“At Everest, I don’t just deal with the coaches,” she explains. “I need to know the families and the students, and how they are doing as students.  I don’t just care about how many points they score.  I worry about their entire person.  These kids are truly a part of my life from the time they arrive in August, to the time they leave in May.”

She tries to pass on an understanding of the benefits of the small-school experience to those students deciding if they want to attend Everest Collegiate High School.

“At a bigger school, with all the competition for spots on teams, talented players will get to play one sport.  But, at a small school, you can be a three-sport athlete and still excel.  There is a lot to be said for three-sport athletes.  It’s that well-rounded aspect again. If you play one sport, you will never know what it’s like to struggle or sit the bench.  Great players in one sport will learn to be humble and see it from both sides in another sport.” 

“And I tell them, if they want to play in college, that can be accomplished no matter where they are, if they are willing to put forth the time and the effort.”

Of this, Ann is definitely a good example.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2013-03-27


 
 


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