School sports enjoyed its highest public profile in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was before competition from televised college and professional sports and proliferation of youth sports programs and myriad entertainment alternatives. But school sports has its greatest reach today. This is the era of inclusion.

This began with the near simultaneous expansion of opportunities for boys in a greater variety of sports and the reintroduction of similar athletic opportunities for girls.

The increased focus on the junior high/middle school level and the new opportunities for 6th-grade students to participate either separately or with and against 7th- and 8th-graders are major developments in this era of inclusion.

This era includes exploration of opportunities for students with an ever-widening understanding of physical, mental and emotional conditions that challenge students’ ability to participate in highly competitive and regulated athletic programs. It includes accommodations for students with documented changes in gender identification.

This era of inclusion includes reexamination of rules that limit students’ access to school sports while understanding that much of the value of school sports is a result of the rules for school sports. We know that if we lower the standards of eligibility and conduct, we tend to lower the value of the program to students, schools and society.

This is really the best time ever for school sports. It’s just a lot harder to operate today than 55 or 60 years ago.


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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.