By LARRY L. WHITE
Executive Director, NJSIAA
Guess who is having a centennial birthday in 2018-2019?
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, that’s who!!! But, not only is NJSIAA celebrating a major milestone, but so is the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools), the parent group that oversees all 50 state athletic and activities associations and the athletic association of the District of Columbia.
A lot, and I do mean a lot, has changed in these past 99 years – in the world, in the United States, in New Jersey, in the high schools of New Jersey and in the area of high school sports. I can only imagine that the landscape of high school sports now would be unrecognizable to a student athlete of 1918.
NJSIAA grew out of a meeting on September 27, 1918 in City Hall, Newark New Jersey, and then on November 8, 1918, with 32 schools represented, a constitution was adopted and the organization that came out of this meeting was to be known as the New Jersey Football Association (not shocking is it?) As other interscholastic sports grew, a re-organization meeting was held on March 28, 1919 and the name was changed to what it is now, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
In the course of 99 years, beginning with football (1918) and then adding basketball, baseball and track as state championship sports in 1919, NJSIAA has grown from 21 schools in 1918 to 435 member schools as of September 2017; state tournaments conducted in 33 sports, 16 of them female sports; and an association led by eight Executive Directors.
A little history – a little of who we are, who we have been, – is always appropriate to remind all of us of the roots from which we came.
The most relevant aspect of this brief synopsis is that the association was/is comprised of the member schools and the Executive Committee of NJSIAA – originally made up of five members it now numbers 21 representatives from public high schools from the 21 counties, four representatives from Non-Public schools, 12 reps serving as ex-officio members and 12 at-large representatives. It is this representative body, the Executive Committee of NJSIAA, that makes the rules and regulations, the policies and procedures that govern the association and the member schools. The beauty of the system is that the member schools change the rules through a legislative process that the member schools have adopted.
Is it perfect? I think we all know the answer to that question. But who better to address the needs and wants, the positives and the negatives, the good and the not-so-good of the rules and regulations of high school sports other than the educators and administrators that have spent collective lifetimes in the high school hallways and classrooms and the athletic arenas, fields and courts throughout the state of New Jersey.
As the eight Executive Director of NJSIAA, having served as an Assistant Director for 12 years, I have come to appreciate tremendously the combined wisdom, knowledge and experience of the women and men who have sat and presently sit on the Executive Committee of NJSIAA. It is a difficult position but I truly believe that ultimately, at the end of the day, the Executive Committee members do what is best for New Jersey student-athletes as a whole.
Thank you to the men and women of the 2017-2018 Executive Committee of NJSIAA.
Before joining the NJSIAA staff, Larry White served as a vice principal in the Pine Hill School District, and as a teacher in the Monroe Township School District in Gloucester County, the Woodstown-Pilesgrove School District, at St. James Regional High School (closed now, but then located in Carney’s Point), and in the West Deptford School District. From 1989 to 1994 he was a minor league baseball umpire and has coached baseball, basketball, golf and boys and girls tennis on the high school level. He also served as an official for high school basketball as well as for high school and college baseball.
In his first month as NJSIAA Executive Director he led a successful effort to convince outgoing governor Chris Christie not to sign a bill passed unanimously by the legislature that could potentially have harmed high school sports in the state. He also has expressed plans to create a final four-like atmosphere for sectional basketball championship games.