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Student-Centered Coaching

The November 1929 Bulletin of the Michigan High School Athletic Association includes this editorial reprinted from the Oct. 7, 1929 Grand Rapids Herald which invites discussion about what more we might do to promote leadership and sportsmanship in school-sponsored sports today.

“Football teams of Greenville and Ionia high schools Saturday introduced an innovation the nature of which challenges consideration of other Michigan schools. From the time the first whistle blew for Saturday’s game until its close the professional coaches employed by the two schools had no contact with players. Between the halves the usual harangue by the coach was dispensed with in favor of a review of play by players. * * * The result of such a policy is unsullied amateurism along the lines we often have urged. The players are on their own. They do their own thinking as well as playing. Under the system as usually followed the coach sits on the sidelines. If he sees an opportunity for a plan of play differing from that being followed he sends in a substitute who carries instructions: ‘Stick to forward passes. Bang away at their left end,’ etc. Between the halves the coach points out faults and emphasizes opportunities for the final half. In net effect the coach directs the play. The initiative of captain or quarterback is permitted only so long as the coach approves. Under the Greenville system the captain is the only recognized leader of the team. He directs substitutions, orders plays, advises players, etc. At Greenville school boys played against school boys. On other western Michigan gridirons a coach is the 12th member of every team. * * * The plan adopted at Greenville was suggested by President Angell of Yale in his annual report for 1927-28. He urged that, ‘There is a wide and well-grounded sentiment that the control of our games should be put back more fully into the hands of the players.’ Yale has not heeded Prexy Angell’s advice, but the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has adopted it as also have some Detroit high schools. It takes the sting of professionalism out of the scholastic game. The able coach still has ample opportunity to prove his worth in teaching the fundamentals of the game and in developing ‘football brains’; but when the whistle blows it is high school team against high school team. What’s the matter with trying that in Grand Rapids? What, if any, are the arguments against it?”

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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.