Bubble Wrap

October 28, 2014

We must do everything we can do to minimize serious injuries in school sports; but because the benefits of school sports participation are so universal and serious injuries so unusual, we should accompany our continuing campaigns for safety with constant appeals for common sense.

It is a compliment to school sports that each and every one of the very rare number of school sports-related deaths carries with it great sorrow and scrutiny. Nationwide there are so few tragedies that schools treat all of them with tenderness; and we try to learn from each of them how to have fewer of them.

But the attention we give to increased safety should not outshout the safety record we already have in school sports, especially compared to activities that lead to far more deaths with far less attention. For example, each year . . .

  • 20 skateboarding deaths;
  • 40 skiing deaths;
  • 400 youth drownings; and
  • 700 bicycling deaths.

Compared to school sports, these numbers are epidemics; and compared to school sports, these epidemics are ignored.

Our world is not bubble wrapped, nor should it be. School sports is not 100 percent injury-free, nor can it be. We should work to make school sports still safer, and work almost as hard to explain how safe school sports already is.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.