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Sportsmanship is a Way of Life

Twenty years ago the MHSAA received a plaque from a member school that I continue to prize above all other awards our organization has received.  The plaque reads:  “In recognition of outstanding contributions to interscholastic athletics, and for promotion of sportsmanship as a way of life for all young athletes.”

There are no words I would more prefer to describe the work of the MHSAA then and now than those highlighted words.  No work we do is any more important than promoting sportsmanship as a way of life.  Reduced to a phrase, that’s our most essential purpose; that’s our product.

Not victories, titles or championships, but sportsmanship.  Not awards or records, but sportsmanship.

It’s teaching and learning sportsmanship more than speed and strength; sportsmanship more than coordination and conditioning; sportsmanship more than skills and strategies.  Even more than teamwork, hard work, discipline and dedication, it’s sportsmanship we teach and learn.

In Discovery of Morals, the sociologist author (not a sportsman) writes, “Sportsmanship is probably the clearest and most popular expression of morals.  Sportsmanship is a thing of the spirit.  It is timeless and endless; and we should strive to make it universal to all races, creeds and walks in life.”

Sportsmanship is more than a list of dos and don’ts; more than grace in victory and defeat; more than how we play the game and watch the games.  It’s how we live our lives.

Sportsmanship begins in our homes.  We work on it in practice.  It extends to games.  It reaches up to the crowd.  It permeates the school halls and shopping malls.  And it begins to affect society for good, or for bad.

Posted in: Sportsmanship

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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 11,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 43 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on several national association boards and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for four years, and is past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He was selected to the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation in December.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has recently retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing. 

Jack and Peggy are passionate world travelers and have two grown sons: John, who - with his partner, Liliana Garces - are on the school of education faculty at Penn State University; and Luke, who - with his wife, Alison - are international school educators in Wuxi, China.