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Teachable Moments

Winter tournaments have ended and, weather permitting, spring sports are underway in Michigan junior high/middle schools and high schools.

We usually think of these programs as opportunities for kids to shine; and that they do provide. But more important are the opportunities these programs provide for kids to stub their toes.

In fact, one of the principal purposes of a competitive interscholastic athletic program is to provide a place for students to make mistakes in a safe and supportive environment.

People most often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Failure leads to more useful reflection than success. Getting knocked down (either physically or metaphorically), but getting up, gathering yourself and trying again with awareness of what did not work the first time, is a learning process as profound as it is efficient.

The principal purpose of school sports is to help young people learn life lessons. The more ways schools can facilitate failure and lift up the abundant lessons imbedded in those moments, the better they fulfill the mission of student-centered, school-sponsored competitive athletics.

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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.