No Returns or Refunds

The “Boxing Day” tradition of New Zealand, like most of the current or former British Empire, is to return to stores on the day after Christmas the unwanted or ill-fitting gifts of Christmas. My wife and I exchanged no gifts this year, except for the gift of time with each other and our China-based son and his wife in New Zealand. So we had nothing to return, and we’ve had moments to savor.

Outside our window on Christmas Day was an extinct volcano rising 758 feet above New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty coast.  Its peak was hidden in clouds sent by the remnants of Cyclone Evan.  We couldn’t see the top of Mt. Maunganui; but our fragment of the Roberts family who had gathered for this holiday, below the equator and on the other side of the International Dateline, decided on a “Christmas climb” anyway.

Attempting a challenge whose goal is shrouded in uncertainty is an every-season experience of coaches, which may be the opiate that draws so many men and women to that vocation for so long, and consumes coaches so far beyond what are reasonable hours for most other occupations.

Even in the more mundane existence of a state high school association administrator, it is the unknown of each year, week and day that energizes the grind.  How boring it would be to know what’s at the end of each climb. How exciting it can be to come to a problem-solving table with good ideas and also with the expectation that the best ideas will come out of collaboration with others’ good ideas.

I count myself among the fortunate folks who, at the end of most days and weeks and years, do not feel inclined to want to return the gifts that each has brought.  And I’m still attracted to the discovery of what the next cloud-shrouded climb may reveal.

Posted in: Perspective


Steve Newkirk
Friday, January 18, 2013 8:35 AM
Thank you Jack, this was very inspiring, and uplifting.

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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, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 44 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 the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for seven years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is vice chair and secretary of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation.

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