Juggling is not normally considered a sport, but it’s one that Pioneer High School’s Lorin Cartwright has mastered, nonetheless.
The school’s athletic director and assistant principal can be found juggling many things on most any day. With her staff, she oversees athletic scheduling, hires some 120 coaches, interacts with alumni and boosters – including doing a quarterly newsletter to garner support for the school – and handles setup and facility rentals, among other duties.
It’s all in a day for the 53-year-old dynamo.
“I deal with tornadoes, there’s a squirrel loose on the grounds, anything,” she said with a calm wit that carries her through the day at the district’s oldest high school. “Most people think I sit here and read the sports pages.”
She’s quick to credit her staff, including office professionals Dawn Leighton and Janet Hinz, for keeping things rolling. “You’ve got to have good staff,” she said. “Someone who knows what’s going on at all times.”
Cartwright said she is proud of Pioneer’s athletes, not only for the kudos they get from athletic competition, but their achievements in the classroom as well. Pioneer athletes carry a 3.23 grade point average. “We find that to be exceptional,” she said.
She’s just as proud of students for whom athletics has an impact in their everyday lives. “It’s always great to see the success stories,” she said. “But they’re not necessarily the people you read about in the paper. It might be the roly-poly kid who works at it and drops 40 pounds and ends up starting on the team when nobody thought he would even play.”
She said students represent the world’s future and that, as a society, we should care about them – all of them. “It makes me feel good to know that the future of the world is safer and there are wonderful future leaders,” she said of watching her high school students grow into adults. “One’s going to be my lawyer, one my doctor and one might be my taxi driver.”
Cartwright’s path to Pioneer seems as simple as a phone call, but she calls it serendipitous. After graduating from Grand Valley State University, she began a master’s program in exercise physiology at Michigan State University in 1980. There, she was cleaning movie theaters “just for something to do” but had applied to be the head athletic trainer at Pioneer when one day, she called to follow up on her application.
They brought her right in and “I was interviewed and hired on the spot. I was hired that day and started that day,” she said. “I lived at Pioneer High School for the first until I found somewhere to stay.”
Cartwright taught at Forsythe, Tappan and Scarlett middle schools and was Pioneer’s head athletic trainer for 15 years before being promoted to her current post.
“I was meant to be here,” she added. “I don’t know why, but I’m ever grateful for someone who said “do you want to teach here?” Cartwright taught and spent her afternoons training at Pioneer before being offered the interim Pioneer AD post in 1995. In 1996, they made the appointment permanent and added the assistant principal’s title and duties.
She originally thought she might teach at the college level, but “I got a job teaching at the Ann Arbor Public Schools and I never looked back,” she said. That was 29 years ago.
In March, Cartwright received the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Outstanding Educator Award – the first time an athletic director has ever received the award, she said.
Doug Woods, who served as head athletic trainer and director of athletic training curriculum when Cartwright was a student at Grand Valley State, was Cartwright’s mentor. He helped her to move into athletic training after she was cut from the women’s basketball team and didn’t know what do to with her afternoons.
“What do you do with yourself at 3 o’clock?” she said. “I was always at a practice, or playing. I didn’t know what to do with myself.” She wandered into Woods’ area looking for something to do and he suggested she learn to tape athletic injuries and, eventually, she became his primary go-to student.
“When one door closes, another one opens,” she said. “Life has a funny way of creating lessons. It is what you make of it.”
Woods now teaches at GVSU and is the women’s softball coach. He said he is pleased to see how far Cartwright’s career has progressed. “She’s made me proud,” he said of her worth ethic. “She’s very intelligent – a hard worker and organized. I think she’s a great visionary too. She leads very well.”
Cartwright said her approach to her job mirrors her approach to life. “I think I have a really good time in life and that’s important to me,” she said. “I’m just one little piece of the puzzle. I’ve got a lot of great puzzle pieces around me. When you surround yourself with outstanding coaches and secretaries, one can only be successful.”
The bottom line is this, she said: “None of this is about me. It’s what I can give to others to make their lives better and assist them in becoming better.”
Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-2090.
Occupation: Athletic Director and Assistant Principal at Pioneer High School. She also has authored or co-authored six textbooks on athletic training.
Residence: Scio Township.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Health and Biology from Grand Valley State University and master’s degree in Education from The University of Michigan.
Family: Two brothers, one sister, mom, dad and stepmom, most who live in Detroit’s eastern suburbs. “They’re very supportive of everything I’ve done,” she said. “I just hope I can meet half of their expectations.”
Pets: Two dogs: Bailey, a Lab mix, and Bear, a black Lab. Both were adopted from The Humane Society.
Hobbies: Cartwright likes to work with wood and stained glass when she has time. She also enjoys playing golf in a pickup league and likes to get her coaches and others over for some winter broomball on the ice.
Community service: Member of the board of directors for Zion Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor; on the board for the Eastern Michigan University sports management curriculum; and an honorary member of the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor. She is the former president of the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers’ Association and a member of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administration Association and the Michigan Athletic Trainers Society.
Favorite meal: “I love food. Food is an addiction and so Weight Watchers is a constant membership in my life. I’m a foodaholic.”
Life philosophy: “To leave the world a better place for having been in it. Do what’s in the best interest of the kids – it makes it easy to make decisions.”
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