The Wolverine

September 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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SEPTEMBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 77 BY JOHN BORTON F ormer Butkus Award winner Er- ick Anderson isn't job-hopping to move up the ladder in college coach- ing. He's no longer the defensive co- ordinator and linebackers coach for Shaker Heights (Ohio) High School. He's still coaching, though, in a manner deeply rewarding. Anderson guides those who will never be All- Americans into a functional American experience. The former U-M linebacker (1987-91) teaches adapted physical education for K-12 students at Shaker Heights, which has a high school enrollment of more than 1,700. He's always worked with students who couldn't navigate well in a normal PE setting, whether because of physical disabilities or other deficits. "They might have behavior issues as a direct result of their autism, to where the space, the environment, the physi- cal education was not accessible to them," he explained. "They could not go into a general PE class. They needed significant adaptations to the curricu- lum to make it meaningful to them. "I take a look at each child's indi- vidual needs and I develop goals and objectives specifically for that child to meet their needs in physical education. A lot of what I do revolves around life- time fitness." Anderson added a piece to the puz- zle a little more than a decade ago, when he gave up coaching high school football. He wanted to develop a sum- mer camp for children with special needs. Instead, he encountered the parent of his daughter's classmates, a speech and language pathologist in private prac- tice. Anderson gave her a call, and soon his teaching/coaching began extending beyond school hours. "We actually joined forces and de- cided to bring the adapted physical education piece that I do with her so- cial skills training and therapy," An- derson said. "We kind of blended the two together." The FIT Program resulted from their collaboration, the acronym standing for "Friendship In Teams." It provides social skills therapy in an active, inter- active environment — a physical edu- cation setting. The FIT Program operates on nights and weekends to give special-needs students additional assistance in growth. Anderson and his partner see it as beneficial well beyond the stan- dard pathologist's office situation. "By opening up and creating more variables within the children's environ- ment, learning takes place at a much more rapid pace," he explained. "You tend to get more carryover, more gen- eralization of those skills, where it's not as contrived as an office setting. "The kids are actually playing. It's a very dynamic setting. We're teaching these skills in a very authentic, school- type-based environment." Anderson finds the work deeply re- warding. He felt plenty of challenges at Michigan, on his way to four consecu- tive Big Ten football championships and the top linebacker award in the nation as a senior in 1991. But not challenges like this. Not like the ones faced by those for whom par- ticipating in a simple game setting rep- resents a Rose Bowl-type achievement. "Some of these kids, I've been work- ing with them for six, seven, eight years," Anderson said. "When they first started in our program, they were the satellite kids who would play and engage, but mostly on the periphery of the kids playing. They were having a hard time actually jumping in and playing with the kids. "They would play more around the kids. To see some of those kids that now are able to play on the playgrounds, to be actively involved in play and in sports, and some become completely mainstreamed in general education classes … you would have a hard time picking them out as ones that needed our program years ago." Anderson himself might not have imagined such a role a quarter century ago, when he patrolled the middle of the Michigan defense with a ball-hawk- ing savvy. He remains the third-most prolific tackler in the history of Michi- gan football, his 428 career stops rank- ing behind only Ron Simpkins (516) and Jarrett Irons (440). The teams on which Anderson played knew nothing but conference success. They went a combined 29-2-1 in Big Ten play, capturing four league championships and finishing in the top 10 nationally all four years. They also performed in three Rose   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Erick Anderson Is Coaching In A Very Different Way Anderson and his wife — Hilary, a former U-M field hockey player — have two daughters playing college sports — Kendal (second from the right) is a senior field hockey player at Michigan State and Kasidy is a sophomore ice hockey player at Northeastern. PHOTO COURTESY ERICK ANDERSON

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