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Show of Hands

Four dozen years ago, my boss, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, expressed to me his disappointment that one of the characteristics of NFHS national meetings was the much too frequent “show of hands.” That is, someone from one state would rise to ask for a show of hands on a topic: “How many states do this? . . . How many states don’t? . . . How many do that?”

My mentor’s point was that the time would be much better spent on a qualitative analysis of the topic, rather than a quantitative one . . . a discussion of the merits of a particular policy or procedure, rather than a head count.

His message to me is recalled every time a proposal comes to the Michigan High School Athletic Association to change this or that policy and is accompanied by the meager rationale that it’s what 25 or 35 or 45 other states might do. That stat holds only mild interest for me.

Before we do anything here to be like anybody elsewhere, we need to measure the pros and cons in our place and time . . . how it fits our culture or our climate, for example.

When we consider change in the start or end of seasons; or the number of interscholastic scrimmages or contests in a day, week or season; or the number of exceptions to the transfer rule or the length of ineligibility when no exception applies; or the number of classes or divisions for tournaments; or the existence or extent of seeding for a tournament; when we consider any of these things in Michigan, we need much better rationale than a show of hands.

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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.