A Dedicated Downtime

November 7, 2014

Those who administer, coach or play school sports have become familiar with the phrase “downtime” to describe that period just before a season when coaches are not allowed to assemble players for activities that look too much like practice being conducted before the earliest practice of the season is allowed by rule.
In school sports, therefore, we often consider the downtime as a time to do less as teams – less than during the season, and even less than what is allowed teams during most of the offseason. If student-athletes are going to prepare for the upcoming season, they do so more as individuals than as organized teams during the brief preseason downtime.
In this we might look to the arts and literature for assistance; for it is in the downtime – the time away, on one’s own – that many artists, writers and other creative types have found their inspiration for excellence.
In Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, author Mason Currey describes the working habits of 160 creative thinkers. A common theme is the time these people demanded to be away from others to walk, sit and ponder. To wonder. To work through obstacles that seemed to be blocking their progress.
This is an imperfect analogy for student-athletes and school coaches, but it’s still instructive. In fact, a disconnected downtime – one without television, texting, tweeting and team drills, but with time and space to earnestly assess strengths and address weaknesses – might be central to an effective prescription for the upcoming season.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.