Valuing Variety

Editor's Note: This blog originally was posted March 28, 2014, and the topic continues to be of prime concern today.

Some people see the declining number of multiple-sport athletes in our high schools as a sign that students don’t want the multiple-sport experience anymore and would prefer to specialize in a single sport.

Maybe that’s not what students want at all. Maybe, if we actually asked them, they would tell us so.

In fact, I hear that students dislike and resent the pressure their high school volleyball coach puts on them in the winter, or their basketball coach puts on them in the spring, or their baseball or softball coach puts on them in the fall and the pressure that coaches of other sports, both team and individual, place them under year-round.

What I hear when I listen to students – and admittedly, I often get to talk to the cream of the crop (e.g., our Student Advisory Council and Scholar-Athlete Award recipients) – is that they want to play multiple sports and that they need us to hear that and to help them.

I remember that when we began bowling as an MHSAA tournament sport a dozen years ago, we thought we would be appealing to and involving students who play no other school sport. We are. But we are also engaging multiple-sport athletes.

At the MHSAA Bowling Finals four weeks ago I observed many students in school letter jackets sporting letters for soccer and bowling, cross country and bowling, track and bowling, and other combinations.

It proved again to me that very many students really do want to participate in a variety of sports and that one of our core operating principles should be that we continue to facilitate and validate that experience for as many students as possible. 


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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.