By John E. “Jack” Roberts
MHSAA Executive Director
During the past year I have had some interesting speaking engagements that took me to some other states and even to a far-away nation; but the two speaking assignments I have every year that I look forward to the most and work on the hardest are here in Michigan – at the large mid-winter conference and smaller mid-summer workshop for athletic directors.
After more than a quarter century of these two-a-year addresses, I wouldn’t be surprised if the audience is tiring of listening to me; but I have not tired of preparing to do my best for them ... which is a function of my great respect for them.
Athletic directors serve school sports where the rubber meets the road; and the road is routinely rough.
Athletic directors operate where policy and people meet – in fact, where they often collide.
Athletic directors are called on to administer rules and apply penalties. They are expected to enforce codes of conduct and the consequences for violations.
Athletic directors are told they must uphold standards – attendance, academic, behavioral. And when they do what they’ve been asked to do, and sometimes have done at great cost personally, athletic directors are subjected to criticism by students and parents and, too frequently, receive less than full backing by their superiors and school boards.
Because I know this, I am humbled to be in their company, much less allowed to address them.
On just such an occasion, March 16, 2008, this is how I described my role, and my great respect for the interscholastic athletic administrators of this state:
“Sometimes after I hear a song over and over, and I begin to really listen to the words, I might write those words down. Especially if it’s a song by Springsteen or John Fogerty or Jackson Browne.
“But after I do this, and I read the words on paper or even recite the words aloud, I’m always disappointed. The words, without the music, lose something. The lyrics are neither as moving nor as powerful without the melody.
“On occasion I have been complimented for my words about educational athletics, but I’ve come to appreciate that without the music, my words don’t work. And I’ve come to appreciate that you folks provide the music.
“Sometimes I may be the words of school sports in Michigan, but all the time you are the music of school sports in Michigan. You make the words meaningful, you make the words memorable, you make the words powerful, you make the words really happen. I don’t, and I get that."
During the summer, Second Half will publish a series of features describing how athletic directors deliver daily all over the state. Among those who will be featured are pictured above, clockwise from top left: Detroit Cass Tech's Edward Tomlin, Cedar Springs' Autumn Mattson, Croswell-Lexington's Rick Jakacki and Houghton Lake's Maureen Whidden.