A year ago the MHSAA convened the first of several task forces that are tackling the kind of complicated topics on which our annual committee meeting process seemed incapable of making sufficient progress.
We assembled a 16-member task force that met four times over six months during 2013 to develop policy proposals to enhance acclimatization and reduce head-to-head contact in football practices. Meeting multiple times, the group could delve more deeply into data and explore emerging trends in both school-based and non-school football. The task force would develop ideas at one meeting, test them with constituents for a few weeks and then tweak the ideas at the next meetings. Task force members had the time to be both philosophical and practical, to think about what would be ideal and then trim that idea to be workable in all sorts and sizes of schools across Michigan.
As a result of this focused, multi-session approach, the Football Practice Proposals sailed smoothly through a vetting process during the winter months, earned the MHSAA Representative Council’s approval in March and will be controlling MHSAA member school football practices this fall.
Meanwhile, we began 2014 with the appointment of another task force to tackle many thorny issues related to junior high/middle schools. Some of the issues are so fundamental that changes in the MHSAA Constitution could be required to change what the MHSAA should be doing with respect to school sports prior to the 9th grade. There is equal chance that the task force could propose some very large changes, or very little change. We don’t prescribe the result, we just provide the forum and facilitation – create focus that has been lacking for too long.
Later this year and during 2015 we see the likelihood that additional task forces will address other tough topics, like out-of-season coaching, redefining what subvarsity means, and possibly address more risk management issues, perhaps in ice hockey and soccer first and then other sports where health and safety questions are raised.