By Sue Moore
High School football has long held sway in Schoolcraft with championship teams fielded almost every year. The Schoolcraft Rocket football program has seen its ups and down over the last few years but in 2016 it is clicking away on all cylinders, thanks to a group of dedicated kids, parents and coaches, led by President Nick Perez.
With 110 children participating in the cheer, flag and tackle program, the players are even learning simplified plays that the varsity team is running. The boys recognized that, when they were invited out on the field for warmups during the Hartford game and exclaimed that, “Hey, they are running our plays,” according to Jeff Clark, Schoolcraft’s athletic director.
“It’s a good partnership now with Rocket and valuable to our whole program,” Clark said. “Nick came to me and asked what we needed. The coaches have been asking for a big piece of equipment that we couldn’t afford. It’s called a ‘trap chute’ and teaches the linemen to stay low on their blocks. We had never been able to fund it, but Rocket said they would. It should be here any day now.”
Fixing the Rocket program fell to Perez in 2015 when the leadership called upon him in the middle of the season to take over. He asked that the board be expanded to 10 members from five and they all just dug in and got to work, he said. “We became a family by communicating with email, text, Facebook. We are including the cheer and flag players with junior and senior tackle teams now and that hadn’t happened recently. We are enrolled in USA Football where we can register and certify all of our coaches at no cost to them. We are aligned with the SWC conference for our games, which is where the varsity plays.”
An important feature for the players was a trip to Ford Field to watch the Lions play. Thirty kids from Schoolcraft got to get on the field for the National Anthem which was pretty special, Perez said.
A big change Perez had to make was limiting the number of coaches for each team to six and eliminate some of the naysayers that wouldn’t conform to the criteria of Rocket football. That includes be respectful, show leadership, be on ones best behavior and act like an adult. “Not every dad can be a coach,” Perez explained. “We only want those that care about all the kids and not just their own.”
Perez has found out that being the president involves a whole lot of work besides his regular job as a chemical operator at Pfizer. He is a Schoolcraft graduate of 1998, a SE Florida University grad with experience in the Texas oil fields as a project manager. He and his wife returned to Schoolcraft in 2010. They have two children, 11 and almost five. “I’ve apologized to every teacher I had when going through the school system for not working hard enough and not living up to expectations. This community had so much to give to me as a student, now I want to pay it back.” He is a second generation immigrant. That makes it even more important he says to get involved and give back.