Centennial Celebration

October 20, 2017

The National Federation of State High School Associations is preparing to celebrate its 100th year of service during the 2018-19 school year. It may be unfair to boil down to a few bullet points a century of contributions to school sports, but I make the attempt here – with the credentials that there has been a John E. Roberts heading up a National Federation member state organization for more than 60 of those years (my dad in Wisconsin for nearly 30 years, followed by my more than 31 years in Michigan).

Here, in my opinion, are the four greatest gifts of the National Federation to school sports in America:

  • In the late 1920s and 1930s, the National Federation’s leadership influenced the end of national high school tournaments. First four, then a dozen and then two dozen very young state high school associations, through their even younger National Federation, successfully challenged prestigious universities (like the University of Chicago) and the biggest names in college sports (like Amos Alonzo Stagg) who conducted national high school tournaments.

  • During the next decades, and one sport at a time, the National Federation assumed from the colleges and non-school organizations responsibility for writing the playing rules for high school level competition, intentionally crafting rules that promoted greater participant safety and much more ease of understanding and enforcement by contest officials. The National Federation now releases about 40 publications each year, serving 16 different sports.

  • At the start of the new millennium, the National Federation began its march to emerge as the nation’s most prolific provider of online education for coaches. The National Federation now has more than 50 different online courses available, including more than 20 free courses; and approximately five million courses have been delivered.

  • In 2013, the NFHS Network was launched to provide a digital broadcast home for state high school association tournaments and the School Broadcast Program. With more than 3,000 events produced each month now, this is the most effective platform in National Federation history for promoting the excitement, diversity and values of school-sponsored sports.

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.