Butterflies and Helicopters

July 9, 2014

I’m doing as much as I know how to attract butterflies to my garden. For example, I’ve planted a butterfly bush and milkweed plants. I do this because these plants are supposed to attract butterflies and bees, and I know butterflies and bees are essential to producing vegetables.
One of the greatest miracles any person can observe is to watch a butterfly emerge from a cocoon. It was as wondrous to me last summer as the first time I saw it occur when I was a young child, when I first saw a butterfly emerge with damp, shriveled wings. 
I was told then that we shouldn’t interfere, that we shouldn’t help the butterfly escape the cocoon and shouldn’t help spread the wings. We had to let the butterfly struggle. We were instructed that the struggle would give strength to the wings, and that would be essential to the butterfly’s survival.
Childhood is much like this, but too often helicopter parents intervene and interfere with the growth process and, ultimately, weaken their children’s ability to fend for themselves, to overcome adversity and to take flight.
Helicopter parents endanger our butterfly children.

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.