Lee laying down new foundation for fledgling athletic program

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Lee volleyball  coach and  Michelle Haynes works with Dominque Moore in a gymn at their temporary school on Bawell Street. Haynes, also the athletic director, is helping coordinate the school's athletic growth as they await their new campus' opening in 2016.
Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Lee volleyball coach and Michelle Haynes works with Dominque Moore in a gymn at their temporary school on Bawell Street. Haynes, also the athletic director, is helping coordinate the school's athletic growth as they await their new campus' opening in 2016.

Since the school closed down for three years starting in 2009, the Lee High School athletic program has been out of sight and largely out of mind. The Patriots are set to return to varsity sports in 2014-15 with a fresh mindset and a different configuration of teams.

“We are currently in our beginning stages,” Lee Athletic Director Michelle Haynes said. “Right now, we are just trying to rebuild the programs and just getting the kids involved.”

After having participated strictly in junior varsity and club sports since the school reopened in 2012, the magnet school’s boys basketball and girls volleyball programs will rejoin the varsity ranks this year and will compete in District 7-3A.

Football is not in the plans for Lee, which is currently housed at the old Valley Park Alternative School located off College Dr. until the school’s new campus is ready in 2016. There are plans to phase in other sports gradually.

Haynes said the school’s plan is to reincorporate girls basketball, boys soccer, track and field, cross country, swimming, golf, bowling and wrestling within the next couple of years.

“We pretty much have to make sure that we market and advertise the programs to the students to hopefully get them to play,” said Haynes, who will also serve as the volleyball coach. “I truly feel once they see what we offer, they will participate.”

The Valley Park gym has been renovated to properly host team practices and Patriot home games, something that should make the wait until 2016 a little easier. One problem with the temporary home is the lack of a field for the school’s only outdoor sport, soccer.

No field? No problem. The soccer team practices on a small field out in front of the school and is scheduled to play its home games at Burbank or Independence Parks.

“Everything is pretty much set up for the indoor sports,” Haynes said. “We’re not ready for any outside activities.”

The good news is that a soccer field is a part of the plans for the new campus.

While resurrecting an athletic program might seem like a daunting task, Haynes feels like her previous experiences as a coach at Glen Oaks and the athletic director at Scotlandville prepared her for the task.

“It’s a job,” she said. “It’s just like teaching a class. You have to go to work and make sure that the kids are learning.”

Part of that process for Haynes was to assemble a coaching staff.

Ernie Blanson, who was previously at Istrouma and Scotlandville, will serve as the boys basketball coach and the boys track and cross country coach. Brian Seals was hired to coach girls track and cross country, while Wayne Birch will coach both golf teams. Girls basketball coach Becka Henning is Lee High’s latest hire.

“We as coaches are all here for the same common goal,” said Haynes. “Having that is what makes this building process that much easier.”

Mapping out things for the future, Haynes said that the 2014-15 season is Year 1 of a five-year rebuilding process. Her goal in this first year is simply for the students and coaches to learn.

Basically having to rebuild from scratch, she knows that it will take time to get back to a competitive level.

“We just want to learn,” said Haynes. “We want to progress and see improvement each year. I know that eventually our kids and coaches will get there.”