OKEMOS – Shawn Grady’s love of lacrosse grew even deeper when he finished up his college career at Michigan State in the early 1980s.
After a playing stint in Chicago, Grady moved back to mid-Michigan, and along with Dale Rolley, a lacrosse aficionado from the east side of the state, the two set out to put together a program for middle school students in Okemos.
“His (Rolley’s) son was a seventh-grader, so we put together a seventh and eighth grade team,” Grady said. “Then came the next year, and all the eighth-graders said they wanted to keep playing. Dale stayed with his son … so I turned around to see if someone would volunteer and no one was there.
“I never looked back.”
It’s been 15 years since Grady helped start the boys varsity lacrosse program at Okemos High School, and he said it’s gone further than he could have imagined.
This year, Grady led the Chiefs to their second consecutive Division 2 regional title, which are the only two in program history, and an undefeated season in the CAAC Blue. He’s been named the State Journal boys lacrosse coach of the year.
“If you look at our school in things like soccer, tennis and water polo, they’ve always been good,” said Grady, who retired from coaching at the end of the year. “We were fortunate the last two years to be in that area so people do look at us.
“We always talk about the Chieftan way. … We always want to be known for playing hard, but we want to be known, also, for playing with style and class, and I think we had that. People always said our kids played hard and with class, but now to do that and be in the top few teams in the state every year, it’s made it amazing. We were fortunate enough to have great kids and assistants that helped make a difference in that.”
Grady, who was also named the Michigan High School Lacrosse Coaches Association (MHSLCA) Division 2 coach of the year this season, will ride off into the sunset after recently being named an inductee for the Michigan High School Lacrosse Coaches Hall of Fame 2016 class. The 15-year coach ends his career with a 173-80 record.
Grady’s success as a coach of a public school team – in a sport mainly dominated by private schools – is what has helped make his career Hall of Fame worthy, and he said it’s something he never expected to happen.
“I didn’t even know (the Hall of Fame) existed when I started,” he said. “I guess it’s a sign that youreally are old. … It shows that your peers have a respect for what you’ve done. That’s really cool.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.