Diversity is a serious consideration
The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) this week is finishing up interviewing a final group of candidates for its soon-to-be new executive director. David Stead will retire on February 1 after a 29-year run, the longest serving executive director in League history and the nation’s second-longest of a state high school athletic association.
Since Stead announced his retirement intentions this summer, some folk have hinted that perhaps it is now time for the High School League leadership to become more diverse. Associate Director Lisa Lissimore is the only person of color on its senior staff to better reflect student-athlete participation.
According to the latest U.S. Census data, over 34 percent of students ages 12 to 17 in sports are Black, nearly 27 percent Asian, and over 33 percent other students of color. Nearly six out of 10 children overall participate in at least one after-school extracurricular activity.
Frank White, who Governor Mark Dayton appointed to the MSHSL Board of Directors in September, told us last week that the League executive committee is seriously considering diversity in its executive director search. The committee is “sensitive to that issue,” reports White, whose four-year term expires July 31, 2021.
White, a longtime official and local Black baseball historian, said that besides a new leader search, the MSHSL has “a number of challenges that are in front [of us],” including the ever-present concussions safety issue, among others, currently affecting high school athletics and other extracurricular activities both locally, statewide and nationally.
“I am excited to be appointed [to the board] and look forward to serving the families and student athletes of Minnesota,” White pledged.
Wanted: Black officials
High school basketball season, the longest of all the sports seasons, begins later this month. But in recent years, it is widely believed by fans, coaches and players watching hoops played in the city as opposed to the suburbs and elsewhere that the game is too often officiated differently in different locales.
“If you play in the [Twin Cities] metro area, you get a different view of what basketball is than if you play outside the metro,” Jim Robinson recently told the MSR. He trains, supervises and mentors basketball officials for the MSHSL. “Outside the metro, it’s ‘station-to-station’ basketball, meaning coaches have more plays that they run, and it appears to be more organized.
“The African American kids play at a different level — quicker, faster, can do more things with the basketball than a lot of outstate kids,” added Robinson. He stressed that the game is officiated differently, not necessarily better.
As a result, the need for male and female officials, especially Blacks and other people of color, still exists, Robinson pointed out. “It’s a huge, huge problem,” said Robinson, adding that younger persons are needed as well.
Basketball officiating is one way former players can give back to the game. But Robinson warned that it is a job that should be taken seriously. Some officials “think they made it” once they work varsity games, he pointed out. “They haven’t — they are so-so referees. There is a need to hire better referees.”
All ticket sales plus a percentage of concessions and merchandise revenue at Sunday’s Minnesota-Green Bay men’s basketball exhibition at Maturi Pavilion will be donated to the American Red Cross hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.