Dan Ross has a goal. There are about 1,700 participating schools in the Ohio High School Athletic Association. As OHSAA commissioner, Ross aims to attend a sporting event at every one. The numbers are not really on his side—it would take him four and a half years if he saw one event every day—but in six years he’s attended events at more than 400 schools, a quarter of his constituency.
The OHSAA is a private, nonprofit association of school athletic programs. Ross oversees approximately 350,000 student athletes, at least 65,000 coaches and 17,000 officials in 24 sports. “I travel a whole lot,” he says. “Every day I’m in some corner of Ohio. It’s much, much better than sitting behind a desk.”
Ross remembers the value of sports and extra-curricular activities from his own high school years, when he participated in football, basketball, baseball, choir, drama and student council. “Every one of them had a part to play in my life,” he says. “I want the young people coming down the road to have the same opportunities that we had.”
So Ross advocates for sports and afterschool programs every chance he gets—to keep them safe, equipped and financially viable. “There’s an awful lot of kids who come to school every day, and their sport or activity is what got them out of bed,” he says. “I think we need to use every hook we can to get them to come to school.”
Ross likens these sports and activities to the “lab” portion of a student’s education. Clubs and teams teach kids camaraderie, leadership, responsibility and countless other lessons that they’ll need for their future lives and careers.
Ross received his master’s in counseling from Xavier in 1973. Since then, he’s been a coach, counselor, teacher, principal and superintendent. Ross relishes his role as commissioner. “First and foremost,” Ross says, “I need to be an advocate of what I think is good for children.” That means seeing lots of games—so far 400 and counting.