My introduction to high school athletic associations began when I was eight years old, when my father became the chief executive of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. I learned about the work around the dinner table, by tagging along to Dad’s office, and by attending tournaments or accompanying him to banquets where he spoke.
My understanding of high school athletic associations broadened and deepened during the nearly eight years I served on the staff of the National Federation of State High School Associations.
So, even before I began my tenure as the MHSAA’s executive director, the essence of the work was in my bones.
In my father’s time and during my early years here in Michigan, the leadership model of a high school athletic association office was top down. The chief executive generated or personally reviewed every piece of correspondence, and staff referred every important decision to the boss.
That leadership model is no longer practical, or even possible. Too much is happening on so many different fronts for the chief executive-oriented model to do anything other than slow progress and frustrate people (both within and outside the office).
For today and the foreseeable future, the leadership model must be flat and diversified. The chief executive must allow staff to gain expertise in a growing array of complicated topics and empower staff to execute freely. It is impossible for a single person to gain the knowledge or have the time to lead a progressive, service-oriented high school athletic association; and I’m blessed to have had an experienced and passionate MHSAA staff to share the leadership opportunities and responsibilities.