Membership Growth

September 19, 2014

My last posting addressed the need for the Michigan High School Athletic Association to act like a member-based organization even though MHSAA membership is free and member-based revenue does not contribute to the MHSAA’s fiscal well-being. I cited the need to apply membership recruitment and retention principles as we work to attract and hold registered contest officials.

I might also have cited our need to attract and hold junior high/middle school members. While the MHSAA’s membership includes most of Michigan’s public and nonpublic high schools, fewer than half the state’s junior high/middle schools are MHSAA members.

We know the reason that most of the non-member schools at this level do not join the MHSAA is that they want to do their own thing – make their own rules – and they do not see enough benefit in MHSAA membership to overcome the advantages of their local autonomy.

They want to schedule more contests and/or sponsor longer seasons than is permitted by MHSAA rules. They are not much concerned with consistent application of playing rules, eligibility rules and limits of competition, which MHSAA membership requires. They are not much concerned with providing MHSAA-registered officials for their contests or MHSAA-purchased catastrophic accident medical insurance for their student-athletes.

There is no revenue incentive for the MHSAA to try to change these attitudes; but actually, the reasons for the MHSAA to do so are more important than money. In fact, the future of high school athletics depends more on what is happening today at the junior high/middle school level than at the high school level.

The less connected that junior high/middle school level programs are to high school programs today, the more problems the high school programs will have tomorrow – including controversies over conduct, confusion over eligibility and problems related to disconnected policies, procedures, philosophies and perspectives.

The MHSAA will serve school sports in Michigan best if it makes recruitment and retention of junior high/middle schools one of its highest priorities, and serves those schools with what the students and parents at that level want – which is, in fact, more school-sponsored competition, some even resulting in MHSAA-sponsored regional tournaments. Of course, both membership and tournament entry would be free of charge.

Just like most member organizations which need to look constantly for new, younger members, the enterprise of high school sports needs to be recruiting new schools which serve younger grades. It may not just be a matter of growth; it may be a matter of survival.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.