An Athlete’s Father

December 16, 2014

My father died two years ago today. His life was filled with extraordinary success as an athlete and coach and was complimented with countless accolades as an administrator. But what he was best at was being a father.

He was especially adept – instinctively, not by any book of instruction – at being an athlete’s father.

The only unsolicited advice I can ever remember him offering me was to “stay tense through the whistle” on the football field, believing a player was most at risk of injury when letting down in anticipation that the play was ending.

Dad never critiqued my play or criticized the coach’s play-calling. If there was ever a parent who had earned the privilege of hovering, it was he; but he never did.

Dad understood that most people need praise more than a push, and approval more than advice. As an athlete’s father, he was perfect.

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.