(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com November 2, 2010)

Each summer I put together a list of all the problems we’re addressing and all the projects we know we’ll be working on through the MHSAA during the year ahead.  It’s always a long list, and accomplishing just a few items would make any year a good year.

So, this requires that we try to decide between all that we might do and all that we must do.  And here’s a reminder of one thing we must do.

When I ask school and community groups with whom I’m speaking about what they think the problems are in school sports, the most popular responses from these constituents are (1) too little funding, and (2) too many misdirected parents; or sometimes that order is reversed:  over-involved parents and under-funded programs.

I like to caution people that in some situations, our students suffer from too little adult engagement in their lives and that, almost everywhere, interscholastic athletics benefit greatly from the time and energy parents and other adults volunteer to help local programs operate.  But I get the point of what I’m hearing.

These and other responses I hear – serious as these cited problems can be – may merely be symptoms of the single, fundamental issue that’s at the heart of all the others.  That’s perspective.

  • Too little money for schools and sports?
  • Perspective – spending money on less essential things.
  • Pressure-packed parents?
  • Perspective – people focusing on adults’ desires more than students’ needs.
  • Poor sportsmanship?
  • Perspective – forgetting or never learning the pure purpose of educational athletics.
  • Too much specialization?  Too much year-round competition?
  • Perspective again.
  • Too much talk of college athletic scholarships?
  • Perspective once again.

In essence, almost all issues arise from matters of perspective.  At their root, almost all problems are problems of perspective.

What can we do about this?

I don’t have the perfect prescription; but one thing is certain:  we can’t relegate this to an afterthought.  We cannot hope to make time to address this problem each day; we must plan to make time for it each day.

We need to model a positive perspective.  Point to it when we see it.  Explain it.  Reward it.

It can’t be left to others. We are the guardians of proper perspective.  It’s Job 1.

Posted in: Perspective


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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.