The End is Near

December 10, 2013

From time to time we are confronted with print or broadcast media reports, or articles in scholarly publications, that criticize schools’ sponsorship of competitive athletic programs. Some authors have gone so far as to predict that the day is coming when schools are forced by the strength of intellectual argument or the shortage of resources to disassociate from competitive sports and to discharge that responsibility to local community groups and private clubs, as is the custom of most other nations.

For 50 years the “end is near” prophecy has been present among our critics. Today the prediction also can be overheard among cash-strapped school administrators, especially if they ascended to leadership without involvement in school sports.

It’s my sense that these dire predictions are not likely to come true for the reasons usually cited – e.g., that the programs dilute focus or divert funds of schools from their core mission. What is more likely is that these predictions will come true because those in charge ignore basic human needs and responses, and they fail to implement programs that meet those needs.

Our response should not be to lower sports’ profile in schools and offer less to students. It should be just the opposite. We should even more boldly proclaim the value of competitive athletic programs; we should provide more sports and levels of teams for high school students; and we should provide junior high/middle school students with more and longer contests, beginning at earlier ages.

We need to go on offense, as my next postings will prescribe.

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.