Culture of Excellence

October 20, 2015

What are the marks of excellence in a high school’s extracurricular activities program that set the most welcoming schools apart? What are they doing to create and perpetuate a culture of excellence in good behavior?

Our counterpart organization in the state of Washington invited the MHSAA and other state high school associations to consider these questions, and to offer examples which would help to recognize the best practices of schools that have a tradition of excellence in good behavior and a welcoming environment.

We discovered that our initial thoughts were like skipping stones on a pond. They barely skimmed the surface of this topic, and we quickly plunged more deeply than answers like comfortable venues, convenient parking, friendly signage, staff assigned to greet contest officials and visiting teams, and upbeat cheering sections.

We concluded that all of these welcoming attributes are the result of committed leadership that communicates clearly and consistently about the expectations of educational athletics, and these expectations are exceptional in how different they are than at every other level of sports.

What is abundant in these schools and scarce in less-welcoming schools is the appointment, and continued training and support, of a full-time athletic administrator who spends all day, every day on the interscholastic program.

And this athletic administrator provides ongoing training and support to coaches, as well as to team captains and other student leadership.

These are the schools where the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program is provided time and time again to coaches. These are the schools where students have attended the MHSAA’s Team Captains Clinics, Sportsmanship Summits and Women in Sports Leadership Conferences. This is where the School Broadcast Program is providing events regularly and promoting the school proudly.

Simply put, these are schools where administrators are dedicated to creating a proper perspective of school-sponsored, student-centered sports, and spend time on this daily. They have gone beyond signs and slogans to the much more difficult (but more rewarding) work of nurturing better leaders out of coaches and athletes, individual by individual, week after week, season after season.

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.