Lauren Snider Thompson, an assistant principal at Creekside Intermediate School in Dexter and girls’ varsity basketball coach for the Dreadnaughts, has worked hard, smart and with purpose in earning important leadership roles in her work and community.
And she would like to see more women not only follow in her footsteps, but take even longer strides and greater leaps when it comes to leadership and empowerment in every phase of life. She also would like to see more diversity in the sport she coaches and in all athletics – and beyond.
In 2018, out of the 72,496 head basketball coaches in the United States, only 18.5 percent were women and of that small percentage, 68.7 percent of female head coaches were white. In addition, in the last 10 years women account for 21.9 percent of C-Suite Jobs (executive-level managers within a company).
“Seeing women in leadership roles and coaching allows our younger female students to envision what ‘can be’ and broadens their visions of their possible selves,” Thompson says. “It is difficult to imagine what you cannot see.”
Thompson says that given the current social climate of our country and area, it is imperative to provide a diverse group of people (in this case, women) the opportunity to collaborate on creating a vision of what “could be.”
“Our students have voices and power, creating a space where they can share their voices and listen to one another helps to cultivate an inclusive culture in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) and empower young female leaders,” she says.
Thompson developed a slam dunk idea in December with the introduction of the first ever SEC Women in Leadership Conference held at the old Chelsea High School. Girls’ varsity basketball teams from all over the area, including Dexter, Saline and Ann Arbor, attended the “extremely successful” event.
“The SEC Women’s Leadership Conference was an amazing opportunity to provide inspiration, connection and leadership skills to over 150 young women within our league,” said Pioneer Athletic Director Eve Claar. “I look forward to continuing this event for years to come. Women face unique challenges on our path to leadership. It is important to come together and empower each other to realize our full potential.”
Thompson created the concept, and in collaboration with Claar and Leigh Ann Roehm (Saline varsity basketball coach), put together a schedule for the day.
“I pitched this idea to (Dexter Athletic Director) Mike Bavineau, who brought it to the SEC athletic directors,” Thompson said. “From there, Eve Claar and I reached out to Leigh Ann Roehm and began to plan. All of the varsity basketball teams in the SEC attended and it was a great day.”
The keynote speakers for the day were U-M Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kim Barnes and Saginaw Valley State University Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jenny Pruett.
“It was a super exciting day, and very well supported,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s session focused on Mindset/Real-Time Resilience; Roehm’s session addressed Networking/Relationships; Pioneer swimming and diving coach Stefanie Kerska talked about creating a team philosophy that guides your team to a championship season; Pioneer volleyball coach Allison Boone-Green focused on understanding leadership strengths; and Channon Washington addressed being an ally/interrupting bias.
This Tuesday (Feb. 1), all girls’ basketball teams in the SEC will being wearing their “Pow-her-ful” shirts, designed by Leigh Ann Roehm as their warm-ups to honor National Girls and Women in Sport Day. Dexter will host SEC Red rival Pioneer at 7 p.m.
Leigh Ann Roehm is the wife of Evan Roehm and mother of Keira and Elle Roehm. A middle school science teacher at Saline Middle School, Leigh Ann Roehm is currently in her 19th year of teaching. In addition to her role as a teacher, Leigh Ann also serves as the Department Chair for the science department and the School Improvement Chair for the middle school. In 2017, Leigh Ann was named Middle School Science Teacher of the Year in the state of Michigan. Leigh Ann started her coaching career in the AAU circuit, coaching the Capital City Express to 3 state championships in the early 2000’s. Leigh Ann Roehm has also coached basketball in the Saline School District for the last 19 years including boys and girls middle school basketball, JV basketball, and is entering her 5th year as Varsity Head Coach. In her 5 years as Varsity coach, the Hornets have won an SEC Red Championship, back-to-back District Championships, and two trips to the Regional Finals. As a result of the team’s success, Leigh Ann Roehm was named Division 1 Coach of the Year by both BCAM, the Detroit News, and the Associated Press in 2020. Leigh Ann is driven by relationships and building culture within the Hornet Basketball Program. Her players inspire her daily and constantly push her to be a better person, mother, and coach.
Pioneer swimming and diving coach Stefanie Kerska was recently named one of 23 high school coaches from across the country to be selected as a 2020-21 National Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association. Kerska, who also coaches the Pioneer boys’ swimming and diving team, earned the award in the girls’ sports category. She has been the head coach at Pioneer since 2015 and has led the two programs to three Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) state championships, including back-to-back girls’ titles in 2020 and 2021. She was named MHSAA Swimming Coach of the Year for both girls and boys in 2021. Prior to coming to Pioneer, Kerska was an assistant coach at the University of Michigan and was a member of the USA Swimming National Team coaching staff from 2008 to 2016.