Mike Leifeld’s football, baseball, and basketball career at St. Philip High School is legendary. He broke multiple records, earned multiple honors, and was named the Battle Creek Enquirer’s Athlete of the Year in 2003.
Now, this highly-decorated alum is paving the road for future St. Philip athletes as the St. Joseph Middle School boys basketball coach.
Although Mr. Leifeld’s eight-year-old son Lucas and 16-month-old son Isaiah aren’t playing for BCACS yet, they will be, and that’s the reason he took the job.
“I want my sons to be able to experience what I experienced at St. Philip,” Mr. Leifeld said. “I took the job to help develop these kids and keep them interested, which should help when they reach the varsity level.”
Mr. Leifeld, who works in financial services at the wealth management firm Hilliard Lyons, inherited a young program with lop-sided numbers and experience. Since there were no eighth-grade players, he decided against fielding an eighth-grade team, which meant finding playing time for the 15 boys on the seventh-grade team.
How does he make it work?
“We take it on a game by game basis,” Mr. Leifeld said. “This is an amazing bunch of kids. They want to learn the game, they all work hard in practice, and they are super-smart.”
With the opposing coach’s permission, the team will play two extra quarters or two full games – our sixth-graders against their sixth-graders, and our seventh-graders against their seventh and/or eighth-graders.
“I emphasize toughness and competitiveness, but we want to make sure they have fun,” Mr. Leifeld said. “I told these kids what my dad always told me, we want to have fun, but winning is more fun.”
Fun hasn’t been a problem, and neither has been winning. Their record stands at 9-2.
“They’re having a miracle season,” said Katie Reed, St. Joseph Middle School assistant-principal. “They’re scrappy. They play with heart. They are the little giants.”
“Coach Leifeld is a very calm and collected guy who pushes us to our full potential and helps us get ‘dubs’ (wins),” seventh-grader Dante Jones-Hockett said.
“Mike seems to really love the sport and conveys this love to the boys,” said Liz Casterline, parent and middle school language arts teacher. “He is a very calm and patient influence on these new players.”
“[Coach Leifeld] is willing to work with you outside of practice to help you be the best you can be,” seventh-grader Ryan Casterline said.
“He makes sure all the boys get playing time,” said Tina Sprague, parent and middle school science teacher. “He uses a very positive attitude when coaching.”
“Mike does a really good job making sure kids are developing their skills at their current level,” said Sara Myers, parent and St. Joseph school principal.
Although this isn’t Mr. Leifeld’s first coaching job, it is his first time coaching BCACS athletes. As a parent, he is impressed.
“They are unlike any other team I’ve coached,” Mr. Leifeld said. “There is usually one bad apple in the group, and there is not a single one in this group. If I had any doubts about sending my kids to a Catholic school system, this group of kids has quashed that. To see how far they progressed and how good of kids they are has been the most rewarding part of coaching athletics.”