Anticipating Collateral Damage

March 23, 2018

When major college sports sneezes, high school sports usually catches a cold.

Throughout history, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has made changes in response to problems in college sports that have resulted in harm to high school sports.

Who can argue that relieving college coaches from the burden of being members of the instructional faculty did anything but weaken the connection between intercollegiate athletics and the educational mission of the sponsoring institutions? That major college football and men’s basketball coaches are the highest paid employees at many universities demonstrates the disconnection.

Who can argue that the creation of athletic grants in aid – scholarships – did anything but raise the pressures on college programs to win and to recruit hard at the high school level? Who can argue that this process got any more upright and above board when NCAA rules were changed to push most of the recruiting process to non-school venues and corporate concerns?

Who is surprised now that the corruption has moved beyond the NCAA’s ability to control and has resulted in investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and indictments followed by player ineligibilities and coach firings?

The worry now is that the NCAA and the National Basketball Association will strike again. Aiming to solve their problems, they likely will add to ours.

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.