Close Calls

November 22, 2011

The little slip of paper I removed from the fortune cookie read:  “Every important call is a close one.”  That notion may be more critically important in some aspects of life than others, but nowhere in the fun part of life is it any truer than competitive athletics.

Where the winning margin can be a fraction of a second or inch, observed by hundreds or even thousands of spectators, athletes, coaches and contest officials, we know this to be true:  the toughest decisions are the most critical, most defining of all.

School and school sports administrators learn that it is the closest calls – where evidence is least conclusive, opinions most divided or precedent lacking – that have the greatest effect on their school communities and their own careers.

It is at these times – close calls – that leaders show up.  That they speak up.  That they stand up.

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.