Do The Opposite

July 15, 2013

During the summer weeks, "From the Director" will bring to you some of our favorite entries from previous years. Today's blog first appeared Aug. 12, 2011.

In Borrowing Brilliance, author David Kord Murray suggests that some of the brightest, most creative ideas emerge by doing the opposite of what your closest competition is doing.

So when I see school sports in some ways adopting over-hyped and commercialized traits of major college and professional sports or in more ways drifting toward behaviors of non-school youth sports, I sense an absence of creative thinking and doing by the folks in charge.

This wouldn’t worry me if I didn’t foresee that when school sports become too much like non-school sports, folks will begin to earnestly question why schools are spending severely limited time and money duplicating non-school programs.

Which will cause schools to drop those programs – first at subvarsity levels, as is already occurring, and then at all levels.

Which will cause schools to lose what has been well documented to be a great motivator for improving student attendance and grade-point averages and reducing student discipline problems and dropout rates.

It is almost to the point where if I see non-school sports do one thing, I recommend school programs do the opposite.

  • Make athletes pay to play?
    • Schools should do the opposite!
  • Make athletes transport themselves to events?
    • Schools should do the opposite!
  • Schedule lots of games and little practice?
    • Schools should do the opposite!
  • Schedule long-distance travel and national-scope events?
    • Schools should do the opposite!
  • Focus on individuals more than teams?
    • Schools should do the opposite!

In anything and almost everything, in large matters or small, schools should tend toward the opposite of what they observe in much of non-school sports. It will likely be better for the student-athletes and tend to preserve the niche school sports has long enjoyed in the world of 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.