The Complete Job

August 28, 2015

The difference between the great painters, poets and photographers and the rest of us is that they actually did the work, all the way through to completion. The same can be said for the greatest athletes, coaches, officials, musicians and artists. They actually did the work.

One of our most accomplished contemporary writers is Ann Patchett, author of six novels and volumes of nonfiction. She has written: “You can be smart and have the most compelling story, but if you can’t make yourself sit down and block out the noise around you, then that story will remain forever in your head.” You have to actually do the work.

One of the most important roles of schools and the MHSAA is to tell the story of school sports. We have a compelling narrative full of value and values for students, schools and society. But the story won’t get told unless we do the work.

First and foremost, this means delivering a values and value-filled program by coaches and administrators at practices and events, season after season and day after day.

Only a fraction less important is conveying to school boards, the media and the public what’s going on ... telling our story through every means available: in person, in writing, through all forms of electronic media.

Over the decades, we have managed millions of practices and events; but that’s just part of the job. Completing the job means that we must also do the hard work of managing the message of school sports ... giving meaning to educational athletics, and explaining it. Our job is not over until we do.

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.