Beyond the Game: the Value of Sports! 

May 26, 2021

Beyond the Game: the Value of Sports! 

By Mike Hart, principal, O.J. DeJonge Middle School

Member, Mason County Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors 

I can say with great certainty that I would not be lucky enough to be serving my hometown as the principal of O.J. DeJonge Middle School if it weren’t for sports.  Had it not been for the support of former Ludington Oriole football coach Steve Brockelbank, I would not have applied for the position here.  Coaches have always been great role models for me, from Jeff Wiessinger in Portage, Wis. to Rich Kirby and Jeff Mount here in Ludington.  These coaches persuaded me to become an educator, even though that wasn’t the path I thought I would be on.  Lesson #1 – always listen to your coach!

Even though I was not blessed with the greatest athletic ability, sport taught me lessons that are transferable to what I do each and every day.  Two of the greatest lessons that I was lucky to derive from sports are perseverance and overcoming adversity.  Whether it was on the football field or on the track, things weren’t always easy but by giving 100% effort and trying for one more rep helped get over that hump and those lessons have carried into my life as a principal, husband, and father.  Much like every facet of life since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on my role as a principal.  But using the life lessons learned from athletics, we were able to get through it. I look forward to leading a stronger school in the future because of all that we learned through the hard times.

Sport also taught me to embrace diversity and be inclusive.  I was very lucky to coach football at South County High School in Fairfax County, Virginia prior to moving back home.  Our team experienced great success and was incredibly diverse with a number of student-athletes from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions.  You name a type of underrepresented group and we probably had it on our team!  It was incredible to see all of these young people from multiple backgrounds and cultures come together in the spirit of one united goal. As a kid, I moved around quite a bit. We lived in New York, Wisconsin, and here in Michigan.  Sport was the way that I was able to feel included in my new communities and it continues to be a way in which we welcome those new to our communities and help them feel included.

The Mason County Sports Hall of Fame is dedicated to providing value to our community and one such way we are able to do that is through our Beyond the Game: the Value of Sports initiative.  Sports teach skills such as overcoming adversity, exhibiting dedication, showing respect, embracing teamwork, and developing character.  As a Hall of Fame, we look forward to showing Mason County how sports influence our community in positive ways.  For more information on how sports have made a positive impact here in our community, please visit the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame at Historic White Pine Village or visit the Hall of Fame website at


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