I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday the first time I had to determine a student was not eligible under rules of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
At that singular moment, it did not matter that I had been able to advise a dozen previous callers that the students they were inquiring about were eligible under the rules. All I could see in my mind’s eye was this one student who would not be able to participate as a full-fledged member of a team in a sport he enjoyed.
I assumed, as I have in almost every case since, that this was a “good kid,” and one who needed sports more than sports needed him.
But the facts made him ineligible and there were no compelling reasons to look beyond the facts. I knew it would be hard on the student to miss a season, but I also knew this was not in any sense an “undue hardship.” I could see that if the rule was not enforced in this case, I would be undermining its enforcement in other cases, and effectively changing the rule.
And I recognized that I did not have the authority to change a rule which the MHSAA Representative Council and each member school’s board of education had adopted to bring consistency and control to competitive athletics.
Many years have passed, and I’ve had to consider the eligibility of countless students to represent their schools on athletic teams. But I still see each situation as an individual student, balancing his or her individual needs and desires against the need to protect the integrity of the rules and the desire to promote competitive equity within the program.