Culture Wars

January 24, 2017

Our purpose in school sports is to help develop the whole child. That’s why we do not advocate that sports consume a child’s whole life.

We recognize that it’s not good to get too much of a good thing. Too many hours devoted to sports and too many months devoted to the same sport can lead to a life that is out of balance and unhealthy.

Unfortunately, every restriction we impose to protect children from such risks and to promote their good health is exploited by others. For example, by non-school club coaches that covet our kids. And by almost every convention and visitors bureau in the country that is sponsoring sports events to boost their local economy.

While we talk of balanced participation and a long-term approach that leads to a lifetime of physical activity, better health and reduced medical expenses, we are out-shouted by a culture that does not have the whole child in mind. Our frame of reference is helping to raise a healthy human being, which is challenged by a culture that is more intent on raising revenue from the athletic dreams and fantasies of children and their parents.

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.