One of the privileges of my job is the opportunity to speak at uplifting season-ending or year-ending events of MHSAA member schools. No matter how busy or burdensome the day has been, these evening assignments always improve my attitude. They sharpen my vision of the core values of school sports and deepen my commitment to the cause of educational athletics.
This was the case when I accepted a last-minute invitation to address senior athletes, parents and staff on a Monday evening in May at a Class A school near Lake Michigan. I was there to address this audience; but the best part of the evening for me was to hear administrators, coaches and boosters talk about student-athletes and observe parents soaking up the moments and messages.
This school gave special recognition to three seniors who participated in all 12 seasons of their high school experience. The school honored 49 students who had earned four or more high school letters, including 22 who had earned six or more. Clearly, there is an important place for the multi-sport student at this school, and this school places a high value on the multi-sport experience.
Twelve students (ten girls and two boys) will be receiving some type of financial aid to college with the expectation that they will play intercollegiate athletics, but only one of those is to a Division I university; and that’s for women’s track & field. She’s the school’s record holder in both the shot put and discus, but she looks more like a ballerina.
That’s part of the joy of these events . . . seeing the different ways our high school student-athletes are packaged. I always smile when, for example, the 112-pound wrestler, six-foot volleyball player and rail-thin golfer are called up to receive the same award; and I’m always charmed when a coach calls his petite softball player a “bulldog.”
My commitment to providing a diverse, values-driven athletic program in a school setting – with opportunities for the tall, short, slender and stout – has never been greater, encouraged once again by sharing an evening with those who are the heart and soul of school sports.