A 7’ Tall Tuba Player

October 11, 2016

In countless school and community gatherings all across Michigan, and in more printed pieces than I can remember, I have advocated for students to attempt to sample all of the diverse activities that a comprehensive high school has to offer ... both athletic and non-athletic activities. It is this variety that highlighted my own school experience and enriched that of my two sons.

Because of my outspoken advocacy for speech and debate and music and drama, I have been asked why I do not advocate that the Michigan High School Athletic Association serve and support those activities in the way it does sports.

The first and foremost reason is that those school programs are already well served by existing organizations in Michigan. But more fundamentally, I resist expansion of MHSAA authority to those activities because it would undermine the essential eligibility rules we must have for competitive athletic programs. I have seen this pressure in other states, but sports has regulatory needs that speech and debate and music and drama do not.   

While the profile of some of these programs in some of our member schools is as high as any sports program in those schools, the competitive pressures are still different. No one is recruiting tuba players from one school to another. Debaters are not often subject to undue influence. Meanwhile, sports programs are under intense pressures that lead to athletic-motivated and athletic-related transfers, undue influence and other unsavory behaviors.

As I recently explained this rationale to my colleagues in neighboring states, all but one of which is an athletics-only organization like the MHSAA, one of my counterparts chipped in: "Well, we did once have a tuba player be recruited by and transfer to another school in our state. But he was seven feet tall and, in addition to playing in the band, he was the basketball team's highest scorer and most prolific rebounder."

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.