No, they didn’t forget their dress shoes.
The coaches on the sidelines for tonight’s Harper Creek-Lakeview contest will be wearing basketball shoes, instead of their normal sideline foot attire — the ”Suits and Sneakers” concept — to symbolize their support for Coaches vs. Cancer — a nationwide event where basketball programs everywhere raise funds to fight cancer.
Harper Creek vs. Lakeview is usually a big enough game on its own when the two city schools get together, but tonight the rivalry will take a greater meeting as the programs will join forces for a Coaches vs. Cancer event at Lakeview High School.
The teams will be wearing yellow socks to show support and the coaching staffs will be wearing basketball shoes with their suits (Suits and Sneakers), as has become the symbol for Coaches vs. Cancer events.
“The basketball coaches association has always asked us to try and get involved in this and obviously it’s a great cause. There’s a lot of people that are touched by cancer, affected by cancer and it’s a way I think to try and teach our kids that there are things more important than the game and give them a sense of doing stuff for other people,” Lakeview boys’ basketball coach Steve Wichmann said.
Lakeview has been involved with Coaches vs. Cancer before, but adding city rival Harper Creek to the mix makes it more of a community event. And when Wichmann approached Harper Creek boys’ basketball coach Matt Bowling about it, he found an excited partner in the effort.
“It’s the first time we’ve included two schools. February is Coaches vs. Cancer month and I asked Matt if he wanted to be involved and he was all for it, 100 percent,” Wichmann said. “It will be a nice cooperative effort between Lakeview and Harper Creek and we will have a little friendly competition to which school can raise the most money and donate that money to the American Cancer Society.”
Bowling added: “I think it’s great that Steve asked us to participate in this event with them. Whenever you can bring two communities together to work together for a cause it just makes it more relevant, especially for the students. Events like this still allow you to be rivals on the court, but you can clearly see a greater human element within each other off the floor, which a good thing. At the same time you hope that it can also bring the Battle Creek community a little closer together as a whole.”
The event on the national level has been supported by several big-time college basketball programs as Michigan State’s Tom Izzo was seen wearing basketball shoes with his usual suit and tie for the Spartans game against Indiana last Sunday.
According to the Coaches vs. Cancer website: The Coaches vs. Cancer program is a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) that empowers basketball coaches, their teams, and local communities to make a difference in the fight against cancer. The program leverages the personal experiences, community leadership, and professional excellence of basketball coaches nationwide to increase cancer awareness and promote healthy living through year-round awareness efforts, fundraising activities, and advocacy programs.
“From my experience at Harper Creek this is a very giving and compassionate community. The Harper Creek community has a very special way of taking care of their own when someone is in need and will do their best to help others outside of the community also. So with knowing that it was a no brainer to participate in this event with Steve Wichmann and the Lakeview community,” Bowling said. “On a personal level as a teacher and coach I have had students in class that are or were battling cancer. It is also personal for our players on the team as we currently have a student at the high school fighting cancer. This is an opportunity to teach a life lesson and contribute to a greater good with this cause. When you see those students and their families it really puts things in perspective on what is really important.”
Beyond the show of support by the coaches on the sidelines, wearing basketball shoes, and the players with their special yellow socks, the programs are asking the community to jump into the action. There will be a 50-50 raffle during the game, a half-court shootout at halftime and T-shirts sold at the school before the game, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
The girls’ basketball teams, with head coaches Don Bussler and Matt Ellenwood also involved in the event, will kick off the action with the varsity game at Lakeview High School, with the boys’ varsity game following.
“I have no doubt that the two teams will compete with a little extra this Friday as we play with the understanding that we’re raising money for a great cause, but also playing with a heart and passion seen by those fighting through their struggles with cancer in hopes of winning those battles,” Bussler said. “When I was five, my brother David Bussler died of Leukemia and my mother Mary Bussler is a breast cancer survivor. I will be coaching with a heavy heart, but very excited to be a part of something so special to so many people.”