August 31, 2012

My counterpart with the Iowa High School Athletic Association, Rick Wulkow, recently spoke at a reception at the conclusion of his term as president of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Rick reminded the assembled colleagues from across the country that, by sponsoring and conducting and regulating extracurricular athletic and fine arts opportunities, they were doing for the youth of America what is not done for youth in other countries.

Mr. Wulkow asserted with conviction and passion that there is no more noble calling than theirs:  to provide and to promote and to protect programs through which students learn life skills and discipline. To be builders of young people and, through them, to be people who are strengthening schools, communities, states and our nation.

In a world where people seem often to be tearing things down, he said, “These programs build things up.”

Like me, Rick is a veteran.  Now in his 33rd year with the Iowa association, Rick has been a coach, administrator and official (including 17 years as an NCAA Division I basketball official).  His words put another charge in my own heart, perfectly timed for the start of public school classes (finally!) next Tuesday.

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.