Broadening the Scope

September 8, 2017

There are two categories of projects that deserve most of our attention in school sports, no matter where or on what level we work. They are important either because they deal with chronic problems or because they address core principles.

Among many, the chronic problems include declining numbers of registered officials and increasing numbers of athletic transfers, as well as football scheduling. It is mostly because these are persistent problems for many at the local level that they have become priorities for MHSAA management’s time and attention.

Addressing chronic problems can often feel like walking a treadmill. We can work up a sweat, but get nowhere. Arrive at no new and better place. But the effort is important and may keep things from getting worse. Which is why many hours are being spent on these three chronic problems this year: officials, transfers and scheduling.

Of potentially greater value and lasting impact are the projects most directly addressing core principles of educational athletics, such as sportsmanship, health and safety and the scope of our programs. Backsliding on these topics can be most damaging to school-sponsored sports, and the damage – or missed opportunity – can have devastating future effects.

So, while we deal with the chronic issues of the day, we are devoting ourselves daily to more effective sportsmanship resources, even more enhancements for promoting participant health and safety, and increasing the scope of school sports in ways that are consistent with the core values of educational athletics.

School sports does not need longer seasons and travel. It does not need more games and hype. In these ways, the scope of school sports is just fine ... consistent with the objectives of the sponsoring organizations – schools – which is to educate young people. Academics before athletics.

Where school sports must consider a larger scope is in who the programs are serving. There is both need and opportunity to reach younger students and provide more service and support to junior high/middle school sports – the feeder system of educational athletics.

There is both need and opportunity to reach students with athletic interests outside the 14 MHSAA tournament sports the MHSAA provides girls and the 14 for boys. Many thousands more students want to participate in other sports – the sports of their passion – under their school’s banner and in MHSAA tournaments. There may also be both need and opportunity to involve more students with disabilities in school-sponsored sports programs.

The scope is just fine for the sports we sponsor. Broadening the scope of whom we serve is a core principle project that deserves our attention.

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.