One of the apparent conclusions of the MHSAA online “Have Your Say” opinion poll conducted five years ago that continues to guide us today, is that the character of school sports is key to the appeal of school sports. This is true for both sponsoring school personnel and for those participants and spectators regularly involved in school sports. This suggests that to keep our core customers, we must preserve our core characteristics. That whatever changes occur in school styles and structures, we must maintain by our policies and programs the features and values which our core customers have experienced and both want and expect to continue.
It may sometimes feel that we are swimming against the current of public opinion when we enforce rules that define student eligibility or the limits of competition and travel, but the development and implementation of such restrictions might be essential to the expectations of our core constituents for the experience they remember for themselves and want for their children or team.
Just because schools change, it is not necessary that rules of school sports change as well. Sometimes, perhaps. But not always or even often. Leadership must always consider the program without a rule before we do away with the rule.
It is not too strong to state that schools seek MHSAA membership precisely because there are rules. In fact, schools formed the MHSAA to be their vehicle for making and enforcing rules. Just as participation by students is more valuable to them and their schools where standards of eligibility and conduct are higher, so is membership by schools in an organization more valuable where such standards are developed and enforced.
The Culting of Brands is a good book with a bad title in which author Douglas Atkin writes about the success of “a meaning-driven brand.” He says, “The product carries the message and then becomes it.” These kinds of brands, he says, are really beliefs. “They have morals – embody values.” They “stand up for things. They work hard; fight for what is right.”
Ultimately, it is exactly this that is expected of the high school brand of competitive athletics in Michigan.