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Broadening the Scope

There are two categories of projects that deserve most of our attention in school sports, no matter where or on what level we work. They are important either because they deal with chronic problems or because they address core principles.

Among many, the chronic problems include declining numbers of registered officials and increasing numbers of athletic transfers, as well as football scheduling. It is mostly because these are persistent problems for many at the local level that they have become priorities for MHSAA management’s time and attention.

Addressing chronic problems can often feel like walking a treadmill. We can work up a sweat, but get nowhere. Arrive at no new and better place. But the effort is important and may keep things from getting worse. Which is why many hours are being spent on these three chronic problems this year: officials, transfers and scheduling.

Of potentially greater value and lasting impact are the projects most directly addressing core principles of educational athletics, such as sportsmanship, health and safety and the scope of our programs. Backsliding on these topics can be most damaging to school-sponsored sports, and the damage – or missed opportunity – can have devastating future effects.

So, while we deal with the chronic issues of the day, we are devoting ourselves daily to more effective sportsmanship resources, even more enhancements for promoting participant health and safety, and increasing the scope of school sports in ways that are consistent with the core values of educational athletics.

School sports does not need longer seasons and travel. It does not need more games and hype. In these ways, the scope of school sports is just fine . . . consistent with the objectives of the sponsoring organizations – schools – which is to educate young people. Academics before athletics.

Where school sports must consider a larger scope is in who the programs are serving. There is both need and opportunity to reach younger students and provide more service and support to junior high/middle school sports – the feeder system of educational athletics.

There is both need and opportunity to reach students with athletic interests outside the 14 MHSAA tournament sports the MHSAA provides girls and the 14 for boys. Many thousands more students want to participate in other sports – the sports of their passion – under their school’s banner and in MHSAA tournaments. There may also be both need and opportunity to involve more students with disabilities in school-sponsored sports programs.

The scope is just fine for the sports we sponsor. Broadening the scope of whom we serve is a core principle project that deserves our attention.

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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.