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Coach, mentor, mom does it all for Norseman familyFree Access

Melissa Champine, center, with her father Jim Champine, left, and North varsity girls basketball head coach Gary Bennett.

Listing every position she has held would lead people to believe Melissa Champine has just about done it all when it comes to being both a coach and a mom. From coaching Little League baseball and high school girls basketball to being a football mom cooking team dinners, Champine always has been willing to step up and do anything to support not only her kids but the many young student-athletes she has mentored over the years. 

Most people around the Pointes probably would recognize Champine from the sidelines of varsity girls basketball games at Grosse Pointe North High School. She spent more than two decades as an assistant on head coach Gary Bennett’s staff, the coach she also played for during her school days at North. Champine also shares the bench with her dad, Jim Champine, a member of the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Honor and who inspired her love for coaching and mentoring.

“I grew up in a gym,” Champine said. “My dad was a high school coach when I was a kid and I would always get dragged to his practices, but I loved it. … I always knew I wanted to coach somehow. I always loved watching my dad and the whole aspect of it.”

Champine spent her final season on North’s staff this winter. She had planned on coaching until the younger of her two sons, Ryan Henderson, graduates from North, which he will do in just a few weeks. 

While Ryan and her oldest son, Drew Henderson, were growing up, Champine helped coach their teams in the Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League and also served as the league’s president. Her sons played football, baseball and boys basketball at North during their high school careers, meaning Champine never coached them in any varsity sports. However, being able to coach a girls varsity team is something Champine has enjoyed as a way to mentor young women.

Courtesy photos
Champine and her sons, Drew Henderson, left, and Ryan Henderson in 2019.

“I have two boys and no girls, so coaching the girls gives me my ‘girl dose,’” she said. “I didn’t realize how important it was until the last few years. … I’ve always had to juggle travel and schedule, and in the last few years some of the girls have started taking interest in what I do and I recognized that they got to see that I can do more. I was able to connect some of the things I do at work with basketball and I love being a mentor. … It gave me a few hours a day to look forward to and put work aside and be in the moment with them.”

Champine also got to have a unique experience when it comes to coaching the same team she once played for and doing it alongside her former coach. Her time coaching in North’s girls basketball program has allowed her to further become part of the tradition that generations of Norsemen have seen

“It is a family and it’s such a unique experience,” Champine said. “There are so many traditions that have been there the entire time for 40 years since Gary (Bennett) has been there. Girls graduating this year can talk about the road rally and things they do now and girls that graduated 30 years ago or more will know what they’re talking about.”

Champine’s work at North does not stop at coaching. She has been involved in the Grosse Pointe North Athletic Booster Club since her youngest son was a freshman. This year, she serves as the club’s president. 

As president, Champine helps organize the club’s fundraising through the concession stands at various North sporting events, Booster Club passes and the club’s annual golf outing, which takes place Aug. 4. 

“Every dime we make goes back to the athletes at North,” Champine said. “… We’re across all sports. Our booster program supports all of them. This year, we’ve given money to nine different programs for anything from weight room equipment to football equipment to a golf simulator. Everything goes right back to the athletes and you get to see them use it.”

While her final season on a coaching staff with the Norsemen is over, Champine knows North will always be home. It is where she has been and always wanted to be, even when there were chances for her to move up in the coaching ranks elsewhere. 

The reason she never left is simple: Everyone at North is family. From the countless athletes she has worked with as a coach to her literal family with her father and two sons.

“I’ve had opportunities to coach elsewhere for basketball, but it never crossed my mind,” Champine said. “North has always been my home and a large part of that is because my kids are there. It’s given me an opportunity to be plugged into their world and see their friends and their environment. … My kids have been running around North’s gym since they were toddlers and it was kind of just what they did. It’s been pretty sweet to see them grow up and be comfortable in the building and neither one of them was embarrassed to have me around.”