Raising Participation and Standards
Blog: From the Director
Posted Friday, August 20, 2010

I’m an idealist.  That’s why I chose to work on this level of sports and not some other level; why I work in sports and not some other field.  And I expect the same is true of many of you – you’re idealists, and prefer to work on or observe this level of sports over any other.

I’m more idealistic now than I’ve ever been, and that’s the best reason I have to keep doing this work.  And I’m too idealistic – and frankly, too close to the end of my career – to simply be advancing ideas that are merely a rearranging of the seats on the Titanic.

But I know I’m somewhere in the final one-third of my tenure here.  In the first third, we raised some expectations for our programs, and we still have more to do.  In the second third, we raised some standards for our programs, and we still have more to do.  And in this final third, we will raise awareness for our programs like never before.  I hope and expect that we will raise expectations, standards and awareness to unprecedented levels in the months and years ahead, in spite of all of the clutter around us and all of the big challenges before us.

I believe we are evolving from an association that worked very hard to understand the needs and wants of its constituents to an association that is also working very hard to understand the world around us and how it has changed school sports, is changing school sports and may yet change school sports.  MHSAA staff has been engaged in a comprehensive look at three particular issues:

  • How has the growth of non-school youth sports programs affected school sports, and how will it affect the future of school sports? 
  • How has expansion of education options – school of choice, charter schools, magnet schools, non-traditional schools – affected school sports, and how will this affect the future of school sports? 
  • How have the proliferation of sports on television and changes in technology affected school sports, and how will these factors affect the future of school sports?

The questions we have been trying to answer in this effort are these:  In the midst of all the perennial problems of school sports – for example, nationalism, commercialism, elitism, specialization and entertainment distractions – and facing serious new challenges – not the least of which are the seasons changes and a seriously sagging Michigan economy – how do we involve a higher number of students in a high-standards program?

How do we regain more of the almost 80 percent of young people who begin in organized sports but who drop out of organized sports before they ever walk into a high school as a 9th-grader?  And at the other end of the spectrum, how do we retain more of the interest and loyalty of the more gifted student-athletes who, when they reach high school, have their minds as much on non-school club programs as their school programs?

Again, how do we maintain, if not increase, the relevance of school sports to students, and how do we maintain, if not increase, the usefulness of school sports to students in our mission of educating young people?  If we ever stop trying to do this, if we ever lose this ideal, we should be reassigned or retired.

 

Comments

# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 7:00 PM
I have some idea of the problems, but I don't begin to have the answers. However, step one is knowing what the problems are:

1. Pay to Participate must end. Until athletics are free for all students, only those with the time and money will play.

2. Many districts attempt to "prove" how committed they are to academics by enacting eligibility policies that go above and beyond MHSAA rules. This is just another hurdle, some students choose not to continue, rather than be told repeatedly how inadequate they are based on inflated academic expectations. We tell kids the "payoff" is in the future, but the punishment is now.

3. Non-school athletics have no rules. You are not required to attend school, pass classes, or treat others with respect. MHSAA cannot compete with that, so stop trying. Be the place where our best values are celebrated, not ignored.

4. Expand the playoffs for football. The only sports that actually need a school to field a team are football and track. Every other sport can be played 24/7/365 somewhere else, with no strings attached. If football cannot be treated like all the other sports, it will shrink and eventually go private. This will be the end of the MHSAA.

5. Either make ALL other sports win 67% of their games to make the districts, or else make Game 8 a district pairing in FB. Game 9 can be a consolation game for the losers of the district math-ups.

6. Face reality, nostalgia will not help MHSAA thrive. There are very few experiences like an MHSAA contest. But everything MHSAA does is irrelevant to people who opt for non-school athletics. Those people can afford to opt out and they do. Increase the participation by eliminating the barriers.

What happens when a few districts eliminate athletics and see that the sky does not fall? When the non-school teams step in and snap up all the kids (who can pay) and use the facilities for pennies? I give the MHSAA about a decade to survive. It may be a victim of the economy, rather than killed by any self-inflicted wounds. If we don't make MHSAA participation a core part of the school experience, then it will wither and die.

Like it or not, you have to expand the football playoff system. Its the only sport that has to "win to get in". Playoff fever may just save the MHSAA. I'm at the end of my coaching career. My kids are getting old enough to be involved in athletics now. And I can see the writing on the wall. Guys like me are leaving in droves. People who feel athletics are an extension of the classroom and students are complete persons, not just jocks or brains.

I'm done fundraising and being told "do more with less". I will pay for my kids to be a part of a well run program somewhere else. Not because I want to, but because I can. This is the death nell for MHSAA. Because I truly believe in your mission. But I won't let my kids suffer, because I can afford not to. Many parents do not have that option. Remove all the hurdles to participation and it will go up again.

David Myron
Perry HSaa

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