Leinaar to Retire After Nearly Four Decades as an Athletic Director

BEAR LAKE — After 39 years as an athletic director in Michigan, Karen Leinaar will retire on Friday. She was the athletic director for Bear Lake during the last 10 years and will be replaced by Ty Schafer, a Chippewa Hills alum.

Leinaar started her career at Delton Kellogg, where she worked for 19 years. She then moved up to northern Michigan where she has worked as an athletic director for Gaylord (3 years), Benzie Central (7 years) and Bear Lake (10 years).

She will continue working with the MHSAA Representative Council throughout the rest of the year and will continue to serve as the Executive Director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administers Association, but decided to retire as the Bear Lake athletic director.

“It came to be time. I feel like I can still contribute, working with athletic directors and coaches as much as working with kids. It’s time for someone younger with all the energy I remember I had to come in and bring their new ideas,” Leinaar said.

During the nearly four decades as an athletic director, Leinaar has seen a lot of advances within the athletic world, especially with technology.

“We’ve gone from rotary telephones to phones that we now carry in our pockets. We’ve gone from nothing but stacks on stacks on stacks of paper to probably minimal paper today compared to before. The opportunity for an immediate response is unbelievable today,” Leinaar said.

She had a ton of great memories working with coaches and student-athletes, but her opportunity to work with the National Federation of High Schools board of directors was one of her favorites.

“That was an experience that Jack Roberts and a number of other executive directors here in the Midwest gave me and it opened my eyes to the fact that Michigan is one state out of 50. The fact that we have two peninsulas and two islands is unique, but think about kids in Alaska. Those kids travel on more planes and boats than on buses,” Leinaar said. “That was a unique opportunity and one that gave me a lot of insight on a lot of things.”

Although she is retiring as an athletic director, Leinaar said people will still continue to see her at athletic events around the area.

“I am still a registered official. I will work track meets and cross country meets and probably wrestling meets. I have a group of folks I help out with those things. I’m a member of the Frankfort DDA,” Leinaar said. “There’s all sorts of opportunities, and I’m going to look forward to those new opportunities.”