Cutting Kids

September 25, 2012

As an athlete, I dreaded the days.  Even when I was a returning starter, I approached with anxiety the page taped to the locker room door that would indicate who made the high school basketball team (and, by omission, who didn’t).

As a coach, I refused to do it.  I wasn’t even tempted to cut anybody from my squads.  But I was lucky.  I coached football and golf, and the outdoor practice venues gave us enough room for almost limitless opportunities.

As a parent, I’ve cried over it.  Watching my older son be cut from a non-school basketball program for junior high boys (he switched to wrestling in high school and had a fine career).  Watching my younger son be cut four times from the travel soccer team (he made it on the fifth try and started for his high school freshman and junior varsity soccer teams during the two years after that).

At no time have I been more deeply troubled and saddened than watching the world of sports, to which I devote my working life, say, “No thank you” to my sons, to whom I dedicated my entire life.

As an administrator, I grieve over the process every year.  I listen to complaints of parents.  I watch them go from allies to enemies of high school sports.

Why would we limit squad sizes for outdoor sports?

Why would we cut freshmen who haven’t even matured yet and have only a little idea what they might like or be good at?

Why would we not find room for a senior who has been on the team for three years and continues to have a good attitude and work ethic?

Why would we turn away eligible boys and girls who would rather work and sweat after school than cruise and loiter?

Why do we persist in shutting out and turning against us the parents who would be our advocates today and the students who would be our advocates in the future?

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.