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My Best Man

Upon the death of my father last month, a sports writer from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who was preparing a story on my father’s career as athlete, coach and Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director, asked for my insights about Dad and his impact on me.  I could have written a book, but here’s what I had space to say . . . just the right length for a blog:

“Dad served at a time before electronic media and online meetings when state high school association executive directors traveled their states doing rules meetings, thus building stronger relationships with coaches and officials than is common in our work today.  And in Dad's case, because he was THE expert in high school wrestling rules in the United States, Dad traveled the country presenting wrestling rules meetings in states where wrestling was an emerging high school sport.  It is not an exaggeration to say Dad was the ‘father of high school wrestling in America.’

“Dad and I worked together when he headed the WIAA and I was an assistant director at the National Federation of State High School Associations in the 1970s, allowing us to form an even closer bond in both our personal and professional lives than most fathers and sons enjoy.  In those days, when there was a particularly difficult speaking assignment at a national meeting on school sports, Dad would be one of the first people whose name came to mind to address that topic.  He was a forceful speaker; and I expect that my nationwide speaking trail owes a great debt to the many times as a youngster that I traveled with Dad when he gave sports banquet speeches.

“I'm told I idolized Dad when he coached, and know I admired him as a state association executive, and he was my closest male friend ever -- even ‘Best Man’ at my wedding.  He was a great model as a father, husband and leader.

“At his retirement dinner in December of 1985, a spokesperson on behalf of the state's coaches said:  ‘John, we didn't always agree with your decisions, but we never once doubted your motives.’   I can't think of a greater compliment for any man who worked so long in such a controversial line of work, which Dad loved so much.”

Posted in: Perspective

Comments

Hugh R. Matson
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 4:51 PM
I had the opportunity to attend an athletic directors' convention in Stevens Point, and I had the opportunity to meet and hear about Jack's father. This is a nice tribute to a man who did much for high school athletics. I can understand why this was Jack's "Best Man." We should all have such a role model.

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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 11,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 43 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on several national association boards and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for four years, and is past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He was selected to the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation in December.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has recently retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing. 

Jack and Peggy are passionate world travelers and have two grown sons: John, who - with his partner, Liliana Garces - are on the school of education faculty at Penn State University; and Luke, who - with his wife, Alison - are international school educators in Wuxi, China.