Eric Dompierre, a 19 year old junior with Down syndrome, will be ineligible to compete in football and basketball at Ishpeming High School his senior year because of age restrictions set in place by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). The current regulations require that a student can’t play in high school athletics if he/she turns 19 before September 1. Twenty-three other states allow waivers for students with disabilities.
Michigan isn’t one of them.
After first reading about this situation in March, I decided to search around the Michigan High School Athletic Association Web site to see if I could learn a little more about the regulation and why MHSAA is against the waiver.
In my search, I discovered a blog by Jack Roberts, Executive Director of MSHAA. On January 17, 2012, Jack wrote a blog post about dreams in which he stated how we all work toward making our dreams a reality. He went on to quote Jesse Owens saying: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”
Eric has a dream—the dream to continue to compete in football and basketball his senior year.
I wonder if Jack has any idea how much harder people with Down syndrome work to get to this level? It starts with physical therapy before age one. I watch my son with Down syndrome work at least twice as hard as other babies to reach his milestones. He gives it his all, and I couldn’t be more proud. It takes determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort—all of which he agrees it takes to make one’s dreams come true.
If Jack meant anything he said in his blog post, he might consider using his position to encourage principals and superintendents to allow the waiver on the age limit for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. (MHSAA’s bylaws state rules can only be changed by a two-thirds vote from superintendent and principals of MHSAA member schools.)
On May 2, Eric took his case to Michigan state lawmakers in Lansing, which is quite a distance from Ishpeming.
Let Eric play!
Below are two articles regarding this situation and a petition to MHSAA: