Editor's Note: This blog originally was posted November 22, 2013, and the topic rings true today.

As high school seniors are scrambling to complete their college applications, I’ve reflected on how what is valued is changing.

I was accepted to both of the Ivy League schools to which I applied. This was at a time when evidence of being well-balanced, middle class and Midwestern were seen as strengths on an application. I don’t think I would be admitted to those institutions on the basis of those strengths today.

It appears that our so-called “elite” institutions are now looking for the outlier:

  • Not participation in three different sports, each in its own season; but participation in one sport, year-around; and the more non-traditional the sport, the better.
  • Not committed involvement in activities of the local school; but involvement away from school; maybe the invention of a product or electronic program or the founding of some nonprofit organization that improves the human condition of people in other places.

When we list all the factors that entice high school students to specialize in a single sport, we need to include that society today has made “well-roundedness” less worthy of praise than being “one-of-a-kind,” and that’s diminishing the value of being a team member unless one is the star on that team.

It is highly doubtful that either high schools or colleges are strengthened by these trends. More importantly, it is equally doubtful that single-focus childhood is the strongest way for young people to become good neighbors and community citizens.

What I continue to encourage for most students is that they sample the broad buffet of opportunities that a full-service school offers. To participate in both athletic and non-athletic activities. In both individual and team sports. To be a starter in one sport and a substitute in another. To participate in solo and ensemble. To be onstage and backstage. To taste winning and losing, and both in ample proportion.


There are currently no comments, be the first to post one.

Post Comment

Only registered users may post comments.

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.