JACKSON TWP. Ten years ago, the landscape at the corner of Fulton Road and Wales Avenue Northwest looked dramatically different – from the sports programs at Jackson High School to the layout of the land.
A decade later, Jackson Township has a town center complete with sidewalks, old style lamp posts and pictures of seniors on banners hanging from those lamp posts. Restaurants, businesses, a library, YMCA branch and a stat care lead right up to Jackson High School opposite a beautiful park.
And the Polar Bears have ascended into one of the best all-around athletic programs in the state.
How dominating was the 2016-2017 sports season? Not only did Jackson win the Federal League All-Sports Trophy for the sixth straight year (and for the 17th time in the 34 years it has existed), but the purple and gold won state championships in boys basketball and baseball. The girls golf team, boys cross country, football, boys basketball, baseball and girls lacrosse all qualified for state tournaments. The school won district championships in girls golf, boys and girls soccer, boys basketball, baseball and boys and girls lacrosse. Jackson won Federal League championships in volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys basketball, boys swimming, baseball and boys track.
"The success of our athletic programs impacts a positive climate in the school," wrote Athletic Director Terry Peterson in an email. "About half of our 2,000 students participate in at least one sport."
Peterson said that 10 years ago Jackson instituted pay-to-play. Today, the policy still exists. The cost is $100 for a high school athlete and $75 for a middle school athlete. The cap is $300 per family, per year.
Part of the reason Jackson is so successful is their facilities are top notch. Jackson has a stadium on campus for track, soccer and lacrosse. A baseball field sits behind the school. The football stadium is located at Jackson Memorial Middle School. And the high school has numerous basketball courts and indoor tennis courts which can double as basketball courts. The swim team practices at the nearby Paul and Carol David YMCA.
"We are fortunate to have outstanding facilities at Jackson," said Peterson. "Our partnerships we have with the booster clubs for many of our sports, helps us in obtaining, maintaining and upgrading our facilities when necessary."
Good facilities help make a program successful. More importantly, feeder systems from the youth to high school level are equally important. Some of the feeder programs include soccer, basketball and baseball.
"Our high school coaches in most sports have a hands-on approach to our youth organizations," wrote Peterson. "That plays a vital role in the success of our high school programs."
Success in sports equals hard work by the student-athlete and sacrifices by parents. Sacrifices include private lessons, travel teams and the notion these kids do not want to let down their predecessors.
"I have stated on numerous occasions the success of our programs have numerous stakeholders which assists in the success," said Peterson. "Those successes include youth programs, booster and parent clubs, community support, tradition of success, facilities, dedicated coaches, parents willing to support their children –financially, as well as coaching and supporting their sons/daughters at the youth level- and most importantly the dedication and determination of the athletes themselves."
Peterson wrote that the Polar Bears do not rest on the laurels. When asked if there was a sport or program that specifically needed to improve he said, "We work hard each year on improving every sport."
The summer is winding down and the fall sports season is gearing up to start another season. The Polar Bears will begin to chase their seventh straight Federal League All Sports Trophy.