The Curse of Cutting

July 22, 2016

The current cover story for the summer issue of a national magazine for coaches and athletic directors tries to make “The Case for Cuts.” The author, from a private school in New England, fails the task.

He argues, for example, that cutting kids can be beneficial because athletes who sit the bench build resentment and that “keeping kids can lose kids.” Not true for good coaches.

He flippantly says that other opportunities are available to kids who get cut. Not true in most places.

The calling of a coach in school-sponsored sports is not to make things easy for himself or herself and to make it hard for kids to find healthy peer groups. The calling of a coach of educational athletics is to reach, engage and motivate as many students as possible in learning life lessons and developing interests and skills for physical activity that will last a lifetime.

School sports is not “The Apprentice” where kids get fired for a poor tryout. School sports is more often a safety net to help young people get fired up for school and life.

Every student we can keep engaged in school sports is a future advocate for school sports, as are these student-athletes’ parents.

Every kid we cut, and his/her parents, will more likely become our critics. If the school sports program has no time for me, or for my son or daughter, then I’ll have no time for it – no time to attend events or volunteer, much less the inclination to donate funds or vote for tax increases.

Coaches who cut teams for their convenience today cut the connection with people who most want to be involved. As much as anything, this threatens the future of school-sponsored sports.

Occasionally, facility limitations may require great creativity or, as a last resort, cutting; but almost always for outdoor sports and generally for indoor sports, cutting is an avoidable curse – one that should be exorcised from educational athletics.

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.