January 25, 2012

It’s been said that adversity causes some people to break and others to break records.

Author Keith McFarland spent seven years studying the performance of 7,000 companies, after which he made this pronouncement:  “The top performers had one thing in common.  Each went through a period of pronounced difficulty – often serious enough to threaten the firm’s existence.”

McFarland continued in The Breakthrough Company:  “Great companies, I discovered, arise not from the absence of difficulty but from its vortex,” its whirly mass.

The key during tough times, according to McFarland, is not to focus on survival, but instead to ask fundamental questions, to face facts that might have gone overlooked in more prosperous times, and to identify and integrate the new knowledge and insights that adversity can bring.

Schools and school sports, today in the vortex of adversity, may actually do more than merely survive our present difficulties if we too examine obstacles and opportunities previously overlooked, and then make positive use of the lessons that sometimes only adversity can bring.

A Scottish author of the 19th century with the optimistic name Samuel Smiles wrote:  “The very greatest things – great thoughts, discoveries, inventions – have usually been nurtured in hardship, often pondered over in sorrow, and at length established with difficulty.”

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on 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.