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Future Thinking

The prolific author Thomas Friedman has written more than once that those who don’t invest in the future tend not to do well there.

What might it mean to invest in the future of interscholastic athletics? What are the things we should be doing now that may not show immediate results, but are essential for securing a future for school-sponsored sports? 

Two things, I believe, most of all . . .

One is the emphasis on serving and supporting junior high/middle school programs. Getting to students and their parents at this stage and even earlier with the meaning of educational athletics. With a definition of success and demonstrations of sportsmanship that differ from other programs. With encouragement to sample different sports and to eschew year-round practice and competition in a single sport. Feeding the roots of high school sports with the nutrients of educational athletics.

The second is the education of coaches, the delivery system of most of these important messages about school sports. What the MHSAA does season after season with rules/risk management meetings and week after week with the Coaches Advancement Program, and what local school administrators do day after day to manage, mentor and motivate coaches. These efforts may not show quick returns, but they are essential investments in the future of school sports.

We cannot expect to do well in the future if we do not pay attention to our foundation – junior high/middle school programs – and to our infrastructure – coaches.

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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.