May 12, 2015

Recently, there has been a lot of sports talk banter, as well as texting, tweeting and blogging, about the preferred value that major college football coaches place on the multi-sport high school athletes during the recruiting process.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer tweeted that 42 of his first 47 signed recruits at OSU were multi-sport high school athletes. Utah’s football coaching staff followed with a report that 37 of 47 players on their two-deep roster last season played at least two sports in high school. Other programs have produced similar statistics.
College coaches from coast to coast report a preference for high school athletes who have competed in multiple seasons and who have developed, for example, greater quickness and agility during wrestling or basketball season, or better speed during track season.
Against these preferences are the pressures of youth sports organizations which program year-round as well as the misguided impressions of parents who believe single-sport focus is essential to obtaining a college athletic scholarship. Escalating college costs add fuel. And sometimes nonfaculty high school coaches who are hired for a single sport overemphasize the single-sport experience in students’ lives.
Those who lead school sports know the score – the foolishness of chasing college financial aid on the playing field. The chances of getting any financial aid based on participation in a single sport – much less a full “scholarship” – are extremely low. It’s closer to a gamble than a good investment.
As is the case with so much in life, good balance is best.

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.