Prime the Pump

Even the awkward or aggravating moments in life – perhaps especially those moments – have the redeeming value of offering metaphors for these messages. Times like this . . .

Country dwellers and cottage owners know that the pump which brings water to their residences is a precious apparatus. When it works, it’s taken for granted; when it fails to work, it ruins almost everything planned.

So it’s prudent for those who don’t live on a community water line to know how to prime their own water pump; and some of us have had to learn the hard way to keep jugs of water on hand to prime the pump. As my local well expert told me, “You can’t prime the pump with water that’s already run down creek.”

That’s wisdom on many levels. It reminds us to have emergency plans. But more than that, it suggests we should take advantage of opportunities as they arise, not try to do so after they’ve passed by. It suggests boldness . . . a degree of aggressiveness.

In our current situation, it suggests that we assess what is trending, but not take forever to do so; and seize the day in order to shape the future.

This is when I think, for example, of conducting regional junior high/middle school meets and tournaments across Michigan and 7-on-7 football leagues in the summer. When I think of mandating MHSAA camps for officials during their first three to five years of registration. When I think of adding a coed Ryder Cup format to the MHSAA Golf Tournament and a coed team tennis format to the MHSAA Tennis Tournament. When I think of adding flag football for girls, volleyball for boys and both water polo and weightlifting for both genders. This is when I want to take a chance with the exploding e-sports world, and the emotional tug of Special Olympics unified sports.

I have zero motivation for increasing the number of contests or the distance of travel for high school athletics, but I get very excited when I think of expanding the number of students who might get engaged if we would prime the pump before the water runs away from us.


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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.