Classification Caution

January 25, 2012

The classification of schools on the basis of enrollment for statewide high school athletic tournaments appears to have been born in Michigan in the early 1900s.  Since then, there have been two irrepressible trends.

First, tournaments with multiple classifications have spread to every state.  And second, the number of classifications expanded in each sport.  In other words, once classification begins, requests for more classes or divisions never end.

One can speculate as to the reasons why people request more classes or divisions, but some results of expanding classification do not require any guesswork.  For example:

  • If the MHSAA Basketball or Volleyball Tournaments were expanded from four to six classifications or divisions, as some people suggest, it would require another day or separate venues for Semifinals, and the Finals would have to begin at 8 a.m. and would end near midnight.
  • If the MHSAA Football Playoffs were expanded from eight to ten divisions, as some people suggest, it would require scheduling the first Final game at 8 a.m. each day, and we would anticipate ending after midnight both days.

More divisions means longer travel and later weeknights for teams and their spectators at Districts and Regionals, and longer days with absurdly early starts and late finishes at the Finals.

Classifying tournaments on the basis of enrollment is a good thing.  But like many other good things, it is possible to get too much of it.

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.