“Overengineering” is anathema to most product manufacturers. Generally, manufacturers desire to put no more time and money into a product than is necessary. They decide upon a reasonable lifespan for a product, and then they use materials and parts that, with rare exception, have been proven to last that long.  They do not care to produce a product that lasts longer than the consumer desires; they do not want to invest resources where they won’t see a return.

An exception to this general rule is invoked by those manufacturing products which, if they break, will kill or maim people.  Airplanes are the classic example:  they’re built with multiple redundancies and with materials and parts that have been tested to last much longer than necessary. The potential for catastrophic loss of life demands this. They will use a part that’s tested to last 20 years, and replace it after ten years just to be safe.

I suspect that some observers of the MHSAA’s recent campaign to increase sports safety training for coaches and modify playing rules that may endanger participants are critical that we’re asking too much, that we’re doing more than is necessary. But frankly, that’s exactly what we intend.  When it comes to participant safety, overengineering of policies and procedures ought to be our goal.


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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 44 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 seven years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is vice chair and secretary of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation.

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.