Attitude Adjustment

January 12, 2016

As an everyday, every hour observer of what’s happening to school sports and within school sports, I can get into a negative rut.

But if I step back, and then step out to a local school event – especially at the subvarsity level – my attitude changes. This is where I get a “fix.” This is where I discover the antidote for creeping cynicism.

Here I see coaches teaching, more than screaming. Here is where I watch an official not only make a call but explain it to the participant. Here is where I see athletes smile. And I do too.

Many years ago my son told me how much more he liked coaching at the middle school level than at the high school level. At the younger level, appreciative parents saw him as the one tapping into new talents. At the higher level, overbearing parents said he was missing or misusing their child’s talent.

The subvarsity level – the arena of discovery and development – is underappreciated. In fact, it is often where the best of what we call “educational athletics” occurs.

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.