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  • Dawson lacrosse coach Peter Devlin talks with his team at...

    Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Dawson lacrosse coach Peter Devlin talks with his team at halftime during a state semifinal game aMay 18. Devlin helped lead the Mustangs to the Class 4A state title game this season.

  • Dawson's Emily Hicks stops a pass during the CHSAA 2A...

    Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Dawson's Emily Hicks stops a pass during the CHSAA 2A soccer championship game May 24.

  • Tanner Fulkerson and the Dawson baseball team won the Class...

    Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Tanner Fulkerson and the Dawson baseball team won the Class 2A state championship this spring.



Mike Jacobsma has learned quickly that the summer on the Dawson School grounds are just as busy as during the school year, especially with regard to athletics.

In fact, the third-year Mustangs athletic director didn’t even really have time to reflect on what a successful sports campaign the 2015-16 school year brought before camps of all different varieties began around the campus. They’ll be going throughout July, too.

But it truly was a banner year for Dawson sports — culminating in a state title in baseball and two runner-up teams with boys lacrosse and girls soccer in the spring.

In addition, two golfers placed within the top six in Class 3A, and the boys soccer and basketball teams also made playoff appearances.

Gavyn Pure was the Class 4A player of the year in boys lacrosse for the CHSAA, and baseball coach Joe McKenzie along with lacrosse coach Peter Devlin were recognized by CHSAA and as coaches of the year, too.

For Jacobsma, it was special to see the trophies and plaques come in bunches this year. He also knows, at the core of that, is a lot of hard work from kids, coaches and parents even before the student-athletes sniff the varsity level.

“The Dawson culture is such that they want kids to perform at the highest level, both academically and athletically. It’s simply ingrained in them to perform at a high level, and how great is it to do that with a bunch of your friends?” Jacobsma said last week.

Like most private K-12 schools, Dawson is very communal and that gives way to kids playing school sports and emphasizing school pride for several years. School pride days include third-graders and 13-year-olds all wearing the blue and white, and Jacobsma said that is where a lot of the success is rooted.

So, too, is the challenge he has put forth to high school level coaches to be present beyond just the kids on their current roster.

“When you talk about our pep rallies, it is not just a high school event. I mean, everyone in the school knows the fight song,” Jacobsma said. “I have challenged our high school coaches to be visible. If there is a big middle school game on campus, or even just popping in at practice, we want (the coach) to be seen. To us, it’s a K-12 soccer program, or a K-12 basketball program, not just a high school program. We want to build this thing from the very beginning.”

Devlin, one of the longer tenured coaches at the school having just finished with his sixth season, has gotten to mold the lacrosse program into one of the state’s deepest.

He and his varsity assistant Charlie Sipes swap roles with the middle school team, giving Devlin an in-depth look at the strengths of incoming players early on. But, it’s the relationships that are most important.

“It’s nice to have that built-in feeder system, and with there being more of a buzz around the sports lately it’s really just combined to produce some special things,” said Devlin, also the school’s associate athletic director. “For us in lacrosse, our guys know and understand the systems we want to run when they come in so there is a lot more continuity.

“When I got to Dawson, our current crop of sophomores would have been in fifth grade, and I worked closely with them that year. Having that relationship with them already for six years, and they still have two more years of high school, is a huge benefit. We get to know them and their families extremely well.”

“I think our school just does a great job at mentoring, whether that’s high school kids with middle schoolers or middle schoolers with elementary,” Jacobsma said. “When those kids come to sporting events, they have those connections beyond just the field. It’s a great connection all across the grade levels.”

Therein lies the reasons behind the busy summer camp schedule, too. The school opens their clinics to the public, but you’d be hard-pressed not to see a current varsity athlete or coach on site helping out the Dawson youth that may one day find their way onto a high school team, ready to carry the Mustangs to new heights.

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