Editor's Note: Harbor Springs has a rich tradition in athletics that dates back many years. The yearly Hall of Fame induction is a way for the district to recognize those who played major roles in the school's athletic success. This year's Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at halftime of the boys basketball game on February 14, 2014. This year's individual honoree is longtime girls basketball coach and physical education teacher Nancy Paige. In addition to honoring Paige, there will be a special recognition of the 1974 Harbor Springs High School state runner-up boys basketball team at halftime of the girls game. Harbor Light columnist and Harbor Springs High School graduate Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh reflects here on the lasting impact Nancy Paige has made in this community. She also comments on the basketball team in her column on page 4.
By Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh
I'm not certain who had the more difficult adjustment that first day of school in the fall of 1971, the new, fresh out of college Phys Ed teacher or those of us who had one gym teacher for what seemed to be perpetuity. Edith Irish had been our Phys Ed teacher for as long as most of us could remember; things were about to change.
Nancy Brookfield, as she was known then, began her career in Harbor Springs that fall and she became a fixture at the school for the next few decades. It would have been presumptuous to assume, based only on her height, that Nancy's preference in sports was basketball, but it turned out that it was. When she arrived on the scene, there was no competitive basketball program in place for the girls; by the fall of 1972, we had our first girls' basketball team, the beginning of an extremely successful program that has produced many championships over the years.
This week, Nancy Brookfield Paige is being inducted into the Harbor Springs Athletic Hall of Fame. She is deserving of this honor not just for her early innovations in creating the basketball program for the girls but for the example and inspiration that she has provided over the years. It speaks volumes that two students from those very early days, Susan Carpenter Moore and Sharon Welsh Falor, followed her footsteps not only to her Alma Mater, Alma College, but also into the field of physical education, teaching and coaching.
Whereas the relationship that Charlie Paige had with his "boys" was almost a paternal one, Nancy had a more familiar relationship with her girls. They definitely have respect for her and I am certain as the years went by the dynamics may have changed, but for the early, development years, she was more of an older sister than a parent; there is an easy, relaxed friendship and deep affection with her former students.
Watching the interaction between Nancy and her former students today, you can easily see how much fun they had together. The stories that are shared regale the fun that they had. She was a tough coach but when the game and practices were over, the relationship took on a different level. They chide her about her "game" outfit, always the same white sweater and plain skirt, they remember little inside jokes like staying in a hotel while out of town and the adventures that they shared.
When Nancy Paige started her career in Harbor Springs, the yearbook lists her at one point as Coach of "Girls Sports." Things were not as compartmentalized then; teachers did double and triple duty and she coached not only basketball, but also cheerleading and track and had tremendous success on all fronts. She was the first to have us participate in gym classes that included (gasp) boys and girls together; I believe I may still have scars if not black and blue marks from those "Red Dot" games. We played a variety of sports in gym following Nancy's arrival. Yes, we played basketball much more frequently than we did, but we began also playing hockey and soccer in addition to volleyball and the more traditional games that we were used to. We still had gymnastics, which had been Mrs. Irish's passion, but Nancy expanded our field of participation in sports.
From the girls like those previously mentioned who followed in her footsteps as a career to the players, like Debbie Clare Michael, who were very successful playing sports at another level in college, Nancy Paige has touched and improved countless lives. We congratulate her on this honor and thank her for her years of service and for her selflessness. She gave her time and energy to her students and to the community above and beyond what was required by her job and we appreciate her more than she probably knows.
Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh, a Harbor Springs High School graduate, is a columnist and regular freelance contributor to the Harbor Light Newspaper.)