The Complaint Department

May 26, 2015

The MHSAA office is one of the few places of business a person can telephone and still be greeted by a real live person.

Our real live person, Laura Roberts (no relation), has become a favorite of many MHSAA member school employees and registered officials because of her friendliness and command of facts. However, I recently overheard Laura say that the most frequent way she is greeted by other callers is, “I want to register a complaint.”

What is frustrating to Laura, and to the rest of the MHSAA staff, is that the caller’s complaint is so often about something the MHSAA is without authority and responsibility to fix. For example ...

  • Complaints about coaches’ decisions regarding who makes the team and who gets playing time or who is playing what position are misdirected to the MHSAA. The MHSAA does not hire or supervise any coach, and has no authority to intervene in such matters as these; yet the parents’ complaints of this type come often to the state level when they should never ascend above the local school level.

  • Complaints about officials’ decisions during the regular season are misdirected to the MHSAA. The hiring of contest officials outside of MHSAA tournaments is outside the authority of the MHSAA.

  • The same is true regarding the days and times that regular-season contests are held.

  • The same is true relative to the facilities utilized for regular-season events.

  • Complaints about student conduct or training rules are misdirected to the MHSAA. Local boards of education jealously guard their sole authority to determine and enforce rules related to drinking, smoking and good citizenship.

  • Complaints about all-state teams are misdirected to the MHSAA, which has never named a single all-state team in any sport. Sometimes it’s a media group which names these teams; sometimes it’s a coaches association; but it’s never the MHSAA which does so; and neither the media nor coaches associations answer to the MHSAA on such matters.

On these and other topics, the MHSAA is the misdirected target of daily complaints from those who want to better understand why things happen as they do in their niche of school sports. Because there are new constituents to school sports every year, it will be a never-ending test of our patience and professionalism.

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.