The Measure of Success

In January of 2016, my counterparts in the statewide high school associations across the US came together for about nine hours of professionally facilitated discussion.

We were challenged to tell our story, to say what we believe about high school sports and describe the values of educational athletics. We worked together to craft the narrative of school sports, the message of educational athletics and the meaning – the “why” of our work.

We were challenged to clarify what success means in school-sponsored sports – to distinguish our definition of success from that of sports on all other levels by all other sponsors.

On Jan. 11 of this year, during the meeting of the Classification Committee of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, one of the committee members – an active coach and athletic director – chastised and inspired us. He said (and I paraphrase):

“We spend so much time on MHSAA tournaments when that experience can be just one month or one week or one day. Half the teams are eliminated in their first day of the baseball, basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball and other MHSAA tournaments.

“We need to move our focus from MHSAA tournaments to the regular season, to the 9- or 18-game regular season, and to the 100 to 200 practices that occur over three or four months of each season.”

The Classification Committee was discussing the future of 8-player football and the effect of its growth on the 11-player game. He said:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 11-player, 8-player or any other number. The values don’t change. The lessons aren’t altered. The purpose isn’t modified. In everything, we are helping young people become better adults.”

That’s how we measure success.


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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.