07

Not So Great

The Michigan High School Athletic Association leadership can sometimes be like the leadership of the United States of America. We can boast a bit too boldly about how great we are.

That's why a trip to Europe, most recently for me to the country of Spain, can be a humbling reminder that no matter how good we may seem to be regarding some things, there is very much room for improvement on others.

The USA is a leader in many ways, but a distant laggard when it comes to community place-making and the quality of our roads and bridges and mass transportation systems. The USA is embarrassingly behind the needs and times in these important ways of improving life for millions of its citizens.

This obvious observation begs for consideration of ways and means the MHSAA may lag behind its counterpart organizations in serving and supporting school-sponsored sports. And these are the two most obvious observations: 

We trail the nation's most progressive states with respect to requirements to coach and a few other most progressive states with respect to requirements to officiate.  

It was no huge surprise that the 2016 MHSAA Update Meeting Opinion Poll demonstrated that attendees were more supportive of proposals to change those rules than any other policies or procedures of the organization.

The most popular proposal surveyed was a requirement that high school coaches who are disqualified from a contest more than once in a season must complete a free online sportsmanship course before they may return to coaching . . . 94 percent of 602 respondents favored that policy.

The second most popular proposal surveyed would require all head coaches at the junior high/middle school level to have a valid (current) certification in CPR (same as the rule for high schools) . . . 80 percent of 593 respondents favored that.

And the third most popular proposal surveyed would require an MHSAA registered official to attend an MHSAA-conducted or approved camp or clinic (three-hour minimum duration) during the first three years before that official may renew registration for a fourth year . . . 75 percent of 601 respondents were in favor.

There are some obvious flaws in these requirements as stated on the Opinion Poll, and the respondents tend to come from larger schools and under-represent the opinion of small school administrators; but the responses of constituents are valuable nevertheless because they indicate a general direction that respondents believe is necessary to improve school sports, or at least to keep pace with the changing needs.

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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 45 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 nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

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.