Anti-Participation Fees

August 23, 2016

Last month the Michigan High School Athletic Association released results of a survey of its member high schools regarding participation fees – a.k.a., “pay for play.” This was the 12th survey since the 2003-04 school year, making this the largest and longest record of school trends on this troublesome topic.

In spite of almost universal condemnation of the practice of charging students fees to participate in school-sponsored sports, the practice is now ingrained in the fabric of educational athletics, with more than 50 percent of reporting MHSAA member high schools indicating they require at least modest payments as a condition of playing on school-sponsored competitive sports teams.

The most recent survey of 557 reporting high schools revealed 51.5 percent charging fees, the same percentage as the year before, but down from a high of 57 percent two years ago. The percentage of schools with fees exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2010-11.

While the MHSAA believes participation fees are counter-productive for schools and communities, the MHSAA offers a guide to “best practices” where school leaders have determined there are no better choices for providing necessary financial support for the interscholastic athletic program. Click here for this guide as well as the current and previous surveys.

Among the core values of school sports is a program that is inexpensive for students to play and for families to watch. The program should have great breadth and depth, appealing to many different students and open to all who have interest and meet high standards of eligibility and conduct.

Participation fees that discourage and limit participation are antithetical to these core values of educational athletics.

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.