The Culture of School Sports

April 1, 2016

What is our greatest asset in school sports?

If your answer is the kids, or the long hours devoted to teaching them by low-paid staff, it would be hard to argue.

But my answer for the greatest asset – the unique strength we have, our edge, our advantage? It is the culture of school sports.

We have marching bands and homecomings, which non-school youth sports do not have.

We have pep assemblies and pep bands and spirit weeks, which non-school youth sports lack.

We have letter jackets, spectator buses, cheerleaders and pompon squads which are missing from most non-school youth sports programs.

On a Friday night in the fall or winter in most parts of Michigan, I can find several high school games on the radio. I can find competing high school score and highlight shows on TV after the local news. Never is any of this found for non-school youth sports.

On Saturday mornings in the fall or winter, there are dozens of radio talk shows with local high school coaches reviewing the previous game and previewing the next. Never is this a part of non-school youth sports.

On radio, television and daily and weekly newspapers all school year long, I can find “High School Teams of the Week.” Rarely, if ever, is there a non-school youth sports team of the week.

School sports enjoy a standing in our communities and a status in our local media that non-school sports can’t come close to. The AAU and travel teams are a culture that disses the school and community. Ours is a culture that defines the school and community.

We are local, amateur, inexpensive and educational; and we have almost everything going for us. We need to promote and protect these things – the culture of school sports.

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.