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Sports-music balance a challenge and a motivator

‘You’ve got a lot more in you than you think’

Kenowa Hills – Many die-hard high-school football fans would consider Friday night games incomplete without a halftime show.

The Kenowa Hills High School football team and marching band shared the crowd’s attention and a dedicated leader in No. 60, senior Ben Adloff. Ben was offensive guard on the field and drum major on the 50-yard line.

Balancing both was a challenge and required some fast moves — on and off the field. 

‘Joining football and band was me trying to get involved and make friends, and it turned into something I loved.’

— senior Ben Adloff

Ben remembered playing the first half of a football game, then climbing onto the scaffolding at the 50-yard line at halftime and conducting the marching band performance as junior drum major. 

Then there were the storms.

“My senior year we played the first half of a game on a Friday night, got rained out by a thunderstorm and finished playing the game Saturday morning, after a team breakfast,” he recalled. 

“Another lightning storm delayed a marching band competition during my sophomore year, and we got to spend time inside bonding as a band until the storm passed.” 

Dual Passions

Lightning rarely strikes in the same place twice, but Ben’s dual talents for music and sports may dispute that. 

“I wasn’t going to do band in middle school, but a few of my friends encouraged me, so I played all three years,” he said. “A few days before I started school, my grandparents took me to buy a used trumpet.” 

A significant part of Ben’s support system, they also attended all his football games and took photos. 

“Sports were one of the biggest ways I bond with my grandpa, and he was the first person I played catch with when I was younger,” Ben recalled. 

As for music, Ben only planned to switch from trumpet to baritone for the high-school marching band. Once again, the promise of friendship convinced him to add football to his schedule. 

“Joining football and band was me trying to get involved and make friends, and it turned into something I loved,” he explained. “I was a little afraid to take on both, but I was able to keep up and didn’t face that much push-back from teammates or coaches.”

Ben’s friendships with his bandmates grew after a week-long band camp the summer before his freshman year. The Music for All Summer Symposium, hosted at Ball State University in Indiana, is a national music performance and leadership summer camp.

“It was the longest week of my life,” he said with a laugh. “You learn a lot about teamwork and listening to others while you’re at camp. It’s a team atmosphere just like my football team, and I fell in love with it.”

What stuck with him most, he said, “was the personal training we received and the opportunity to see other people’s experiences through their eyes. As much as you want to focus only on the music, teamwork and leadership are just as important as a drum major.”

When school buildings closed in March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Ben’s loyalty to his teams did not waiver.

“During COVID, the biggest challenge was keeping morale up and everyone energized without the motivation of competitions. Even without a show season my senior year, we still practiced the music and learned the drills with more fun-based rehearsals.” 

Sprints, Strikes and School Success 

Ben also ran short distances on the track team and made it all four years to statewide bowling competitions. 

Between band rehearsals and sports practice, he also managed a course load with AP classes during his junior and senior years in psychology, government, literature, language, calculus, chemistry and biology.

And “If my homework was not done by midnight each night,” he said, “I went to bed anyway and got a fresh start in the morning.” 

Kenowa Hills High School Principal Nate Robrahn praised Ben for being involved and a positive leader in his senior class.

“Ben is a great student and we’re very proud of him,” Robrahn said. “It’s one thing to get involved in everything, but Ben does everything and is successful at everything he does. It’s made him a great athlete, a better musician and student.” 

Said Ben: “I learned a lot about myself in high school. I learned how far you can actually go. There were times when I wanted to quit with hours of band and sports practice and homework, but you’ve got a lot more in you than you think.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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