A Can-Do Response

January 5, 2015

Michigan has a tradition of some of the nation’s most lenient out-of-season coaching rules, especially in the summer; and yet, the few rules we have are sometimes blamed for driving students to non-school programs.
Nevertheless, there is some validity to the criticism. It is observably true that non-school programs seem to fill every void in the interscholastic calendar. The day after high school seasons end, many non-school programs begin. The day a school coach can no longer work with more than three or four students, a non-school coach begins to do so.
The challenge is to balance the negative effects of an “arms war” in high school sports against driving students toward non-school programs. It’s the balance of too few vs. too many rules out of season.
The out-of-the-box compromise for this dilemma could be to not regulate the off season as much as to conduct school-sponsored off-season programs in a healthier way than they normally occur, i.e., to move schools back in control of and in the center of the non-school season. To not merely regulate what schools and coaches can’t do, but actually run the programs they can do and want to do.
Of course, this would require more of what schools have less of – resources. School administrators who may be in agreement that schools should operate off-season programs to keep kids attached to in-season programs still balk because they lack resources. At a time when resources are being cut for basic support of in-season programs, how could they justify spending more for out-of-season outreach?
Ultimately, in discovering the sweet spot for out-of-season interaction between school coaches with student-athletes, we need to give at least as much attention to providing more opportunity for what they can do together as for what they can’t do.

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.