Centennial Celebration

The National Federation of State High School Associations is preparing to celebrate its 100th year of service during the 2018-19 school year. It may be unfair to boil down to a few bullet points a century of contributions to school sports, but I make the attempt here – with the credentials that there has been a John E. Roberts heading up a National Federation member state organization for more than 60 of those years (my dad in Wisconsin for nearly 30 years, followed by my more than 31 years in Michigan).

Here, in my opinion, are the four greatest gifts of the National Federation to school sports in America:

  • In the late 1920s and 1930s, the National Federation’s leadership influenced the end of national high school tournaments. First four, then a dozen and then two dozen very young state high school associations, through their even younger National Federation, successfully challenged prestigious universities (like the University of Chicago) and the biggest names in college sports (like Amos Alonzo Stagg) who conducted national high school tournaments.
  • During the next decades, and one sport at a time, the National Federation assumed from the colleges and non-school organizations responsibility for writing the playing rules for high school level competition, intentionally crafting rules that promoted greater participant safety and much more ease of understanding and enforcement by contest officials. The National Federation now releases about 40 publications each year, serving 16 different sports.
  • At the start of the new millennium, the National Federation began its march to emerge as the nation’s most prolific provider of online education for coaches. The National Federation now has more than 50 different online courses available, including more than 20 free courses; and approximately five million courses have been delivered.
  • In 2013, the NFHS Network was launched to provide a digital broadcast home for state high school association tournaments and the School Broadcast Program. With more than 3,000 events produced each month now, this is the most effective platform in National Federation history for promoting the excitement, diversity and values of school-sponsored sports.


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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.