The Waiver Process

August 21, 2015

Last school year, over the course of 12 meetings, the MHSAA Executive Committee received 467 requests from member schools to waive either a minimum standard for student eligibility or a maximum limitation on competition. Three hundred sixty-two of these requests for waiver were approved. That’s 78 percent.

This was a typical year – neither a record high nor record low in the number of requests, or of waivers approved.

Under the MHSAA Constitution, to at least some degree, every Handbook regulation may be waived by the Executive Committee. However, it is an abuse of authority if there is not  a compelling reason for the waiver – that is, a clear case where the rule works an undue hardship (not just any hardship) on a student or school, or the rule fails to perform its intended purpose in the particular and unique circumstances documented.

There are times when school administrators will disagree with an Executive Committee determination, and more times when parents will disagree – and sometimes the difference of opinion leads to unjustified attacks on the MHSAA or individuals. This is unfortunate, but inevitable when critics see their situation alone and not in the context of past and future precedent.

Nevertheless, in recent years, fewer than one in 400 waiver requests that is not approved has been appealed to the full MHSAA Representative Council. I believe this reflects not only that the Executive Committee has been getting the decisions right, but also that those who are making the requests have felt well heard and served.

We work hard to create that atmosphere, even in the presence of emotional, invested parents who are advocating for their children. From a real live receptionist who greets every telephone caller, to our associate director who helps administrators prepare each request to the Executive Committee, we strive to present every request for waiver in its best factual light and every rule involved in its complete educational and historical context.

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.