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The Leadership Challenge

It has been often said, and it’s well documented, that school sports is a great bargain, involving large numbers of the student body but needing a small fraction of the school budget to support a program that provides the kind of educational experiences that the classroom usually cannot provide as often or as well.

Because Michigan laws have allowed general funds to support school sports budgets, our schools have stayed in good control of interscholastic athletics.  But as less and less money flows from general budgets to athletic departments, and more and more flows to athletic departments from outside funding, we worry that we will lose our way – lose our school-centered focus and the values we believe in for educational athletics.

Without being overly dramatic, the battle now at the local school level is not just over the funds for school sports; it’s over the very soul of educational athletics.

Decisions being made in desperation today – like cutting loose middle school sports to community organization or condensing JV and 9th grade programs into a single team – may fundamentally and forever change the potential for schools to reach the community and teach its young people.

As school districts are forced to make deep cuts, they are making bad decisions educationally by cutting programs; and they’re making some bad decisions legally by cutting personnel and services, like transportation:  asking students to find their own way to and/or from off-campus practices or to and/or from away games.  Tragedy awaits for these understaffed, under-served programs; and deeper financial difficulties will follow.

This means the MHSAA’s leadership challenge is threefold: 

  • First, of course, our challenge is to remove every possible Handbook rule and tournament policy that increases expenses for schools without direct, positive effect on fundamental fairness and participant safety.  Now is not the time for new tournaments, additional classifications or relaxed travel limitations.  Now is not the time for non-essential uniform and equipment rules changes.
  • Second, our challenge is to raise revenue in new ways and to share almost all of it with local schools, plugging revenue holes in ways that are consistent with the mission of interscholastic athletics.
  • Third, our challenge is to preach and to teach the value and values of school sports like never before. Please see our page entitled, "Stating Our Case," for a myriad of resources.

Almost all that we do in preparation for the 2010-11 school year, and in the foreseeable future beyond, should be designed to answer one or more of these challenges.  An insolvent state budget and an irresolute legislature make this a necessity.
 

Posted in: Leadership

Comments

Adam
Friday, May 7, 2010 10:22 AM
Not to beat a dead horse, but I've said before: add 2 weeks to the Football playoffs so that everybody qualifies, reducing the extreme regular season travel burdens as teams are currently going further and further afield to fill their schedules due to the obsession with playoff qualifying; then go down to 5 Divisions (instead of 8), which will reduce travel (e.g., situations where the Traverse City public schools end up in different Divisions are less likely with fewer Divisions).

Getting rid of the "20% rule" in Soccer might also help reduce some travel; with Division 4 smaller than the others, the schools are more likely to be spread out geographically (especially given that small schools tend to be located in the rural portions of the State). Going to normal equal divisions may help a little at the margin.

Diana Davis
Friday, May 7, 2010 10:27 AM
I have always been - and will continue to be - a supporter of educational athletics! I am also a school superintendent whose district made the "bad decision" to ask parents to transport their children home from some away athletic contests. We have also reduced our teaching staff, cut a principal, asked our transportation department to make wage and benefit concessions (which they graciously did), privatized our custodial staff, eliminated district funding for field trips, reduced our curriculum budget, postponed the purchase of new (actually used, but new to us) buses, etc. I appreciate MHSAA's awareness of our plight, but please understand that every cut we make is a "bad decision" for someone.

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From the Director is the official MHSAA Blog which will touch on pertinent school sports topics periodically throughout the school year from various MHSAA Staff.