The 95th annual meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations occurs June 28 to July 2 in Boston. I wonder if any speaker will say anything as profound as this statement by philosopher/psychologist William James during a lecture in Boston in 1906 (just months after the founding of the National Collegiate Athletic Association):
“. . . the aim of a football team is not merely to get the ball to a certain goal (if that were so, they would simply get up on some dark night and place it there), but to get it there by a fixed machinery of conditions – the game’s rules and the opposing players.”
Competitive athletics is nothing without a set of rules that opponents must follow. All opponents. Even those with “helicopter parents” who try to provide a parachute to their child after a mistake. Even those who believe their money or connections should give them a free pass. Even for star players; even for substitutes.
Without rules of eligibility and competition, and opponents playing by the very same rules, there is no validity in moving the ball to the goal. Without rules, there is no value in sinking the putt, making the basket, clearing the bar or crossing the finish line.
Without a regulatory scheme adhered to by all competitors, victory is hollow. Rules are a big part of what gives school sports meaning and value.