Another Way to Learn

October 30, 2012

In 2000, I had the pleasure of listening to a speech by Ken Dryden, who had been goalkeeper for Cornell University when it was the NCAA Ice Hockey Champion in the 1960s.  Ken Dryden then was a goalkeeper in the National Hockey League for eight years.  Then president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s a lawyer.

Ken Dryden said that the greatest lesson of sport is that most things go wrong; in fact, that they almost always go wrong.  He said he’s seen dozens of coaches on hundreds of occasions diagram plays in the locker room where every defender is blocked just so and every pattern is executed perfectly.

But what you learn in competition, said Dryden, is that the plans almost always go awry, that the patterns almost always break down.  What you learn in competition is to not get upset, but to improvise and find another way to get the puck in the goal or the ball in the net.

What happens to the high school student, asked Dryden, who doesn’t play sports in high school and who gets all A’s, a 4.3 grade point average on a 4 point scale, 100 percent on test scores all the time, who never has anything go wrong?  What happens to that student in college when he or she gets 90 percent, or 80 percent, or worse.  What happens to that student when something goes wrong in life?

Dryden concluded that sport is not frivolous, it’s another way to learn. 

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.