Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Henriksen: You are the head coach now

MPCHS sees 128 graduates walk across the stage on Sunday
May 21, 2018
Photo by: Karyn Spory And now they’re graduates. Mt. Pleasant High School held its commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20, in the high school gymnasium. 128 walked across the stage on Sunday and received their diploma.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


When Mt. Pleasant Community School District Superintendent John Henriksen was a football coach, he called a play that did not work. What did this have to do with the Mt. Pleasant graduating seniors? Just a simple reminder that as graduates and adults they are now their own head coach.

On Sunday, May 20, in an auditorium packed with parents, family and friends, Henriksen peered down from the podium to the 128 students whom, in mere moments, would become high school graduates. “No doubt you’ve been receiving lots and lots of advice these days, I hope that a personal story of mine will help you remember my advice.”

A number of years ago, Henriksen was an assistant football coach at Mt. Pleasant. The team was in the second round of the state playoffs and heavy rains throughout the day made the field less than perfect for playing. As the teams battled back and forth, the Panthers scored a late touchdown, which seemed to have sealed the deal. Instead of having the kickoff team drive the ball deep into the backfield, Henriksen told the head coach to call a squib kick. “For those who don’t know, a squib kick is usually a low line drive kickoff that usually bounces down on the ground before it can be picked up,” Henriksen explained. With the difficult playing conditions Henriksen believed this would eat up time on the clock, the head coach wasn’t convinced, and the two argued, but the head coach called the play anyway. And he was right, they should have kicked it deep. A quick receiver snatched up the ball and ran it down the field, forcing the Panther defense to hold the line until the final whistle.

“At the conclusion of the kickoff play, the first thing I saw out of the corner of my eye was the head coach storming toward me. Spit was flying out of his mouth as he yelled, ‘you should have let me kick it deep,’” Henriksen recalled to a gymnasium full of laughter. “I looked at him for a second and I said the only words that came to my mind at that point, ‘hey, you’re the head coach.’”

What can a group of graduates take away from a football story? It’s pretty simple, Henriksen said. From this point on, the graduates are going to assume more and more of the head coaching duties. “More and more of the final decisions will be yours, and the consequences will become yours,” he said.

As they grow and the buck stops with them, Henriksen said he hopes their time at Mt. Pleasant has prepared them for life beyond the Panther hallways with a solid moral foundation.

Henriksen wasn’t the only one who used sports analogies to discuss the graduating seniors and their time spent at Mt. Pleasant. For Salutatorian Taylor Murray, her time at Mt. Pleasant was difficult to put into words, so she did what she often does, falls back on running. “High school has been like running a mile, with each year being a lap,” she said. “The first lap, freshman year, goes by way too fast. You’re thrown in with a pack and fly along because everyone else is moving quickly too.” By sophomore year, Murray said, students are finding their pace and the pack they want to run with. “You begin to realize there still is a lot of race left to run but with the right people around to pace you and get you through, you’ll make it.”

As with running, the third lap, junior year, was the toughest as the end was in sight, but the grind of high school begins to set in. But by the time runners hit that final lap, it’s over too soon. “Racing and running is hard, similar to how high school is hard. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the many miles I’ve run, it’s that struggles breeds success.”

Valedictorian Delaney McDowell couldn’t believe how quickly her high school career went. “The past four years we have spent 712 days within the walls of Mt. Pleasant High seems like a long time,” she said in her speech. “It is enough time to make mistakes, friends and memories. Enough time to stay up all night writing a 27-page paper and more than enough time to get stressed over school and maybe even cry. But you blink and now you’re walking across the stage and then high school is over.”

McDowell said those 712 days felt more like a week. “The first day of freshman year feels like it was last week. It feels like six days ago you just got your license.” Each day, a different milestone. “The past four years we have represented Mt. Pleasant athletically, socially and academically in the best way possible. I think I can speak for everyone here by saying we wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

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