Elite Soccer?

August 5, 2014

Every four years, the Winter Olympics brings obscure cold-weather sports to American homes; and a few months after that, the World Cup brings the world’s most popular game to the American conscience and conversation.
Predictably, those who don’t understand or don’t like soccer ridiculed the sport, while the sport’s devotees ignored ugly blemishes on the face of the “beautiful game.”
It’s my hope that those who play or coach school-based soccer, or who aspire to, saw the spacing, the strategy and the one-on-one skills of soccer at its highest level on its biggest stage. It really is beautiful!
But I wish even more that those who play or coach school-based soccer, or hope to, will ignore the feigning and the flopping. Grown, athletic men seemed to be tripped up by the slightest push or pull, and then tumbled with comical force, and then trembled dramatically as they held their head or gripped an ankle with both hands.
Oh, there were times when the shoves were real and forceful and the injuries were real and painful; but the vast majority of the players who fell were faking both incident and injury.
At times last month I thought I was watching World Wrestling Federation actors, not World Cup athletes. And in that regard, I prefer our high school version of the world’s highest profile sport.

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.