Kicking Bad Habits

Forty years ago, as a youngster on a venerable staff at the national office of the National Federation of State High School Associations, where the playing rules for high school football were published, I would entertain my colleagues with a quixotic proposal – year after year – to eliminate the kickoff from football.

As a college player, I got my first playing time as a member of the kickoff team. I knew it was because the coaches didn’t want to risk injury to better players.

As a high school coach, when I conducted preseason scrimmages, I always insisted that kickoffs not occur because I didn’t want to risk season-ending injuries before the season even began.

So, as the world of football from youth levels to the pros is eliminating kickoffs or altering rules to reduce their frequency, I write smugly, “What took you so long?”

Rules committees on every level for every sport have an obligation to examine the data for their sports closely and determine precisely the circumstances that cause the most injuries. And then they must create and enforce rules that will eliminate or greatly modify that most injurious situation.

If the data tells us now what my gut told me as a young coach and administrator, we should give kickoffs the boot.


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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.