The Essential AD

March 24, 2015

It’s the final week of the winter sports season.

If there is one time of the year when I hear it, and hear it again – that time is now when local school athletic administrators exhale deeply and admit they’re tired and need a break.

The winter season is long. Almost all the practices and contests are indoors, most sharing the same very limited spaces. Stormy weather wreaking havoc with schedules. Officials turning back games due to injury or fatigue.

Many of these administrators gathered last weekend at the annual conference of their professional organization, the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, which is the best of its kind in the country, unmatched in its commitment to professional development for athletic directors, regardless of their years of service.

It often impresses and inspires me to observe athletic directors, at the time of their greatest fatigue, coming together to be energized with each other’s company and educated by each other’s ideas to improve local programs.

As societal changes cause school competitions to become more complicated and controversial, the case for the full-time, well-trained athletic administrator becomes even more compelling. School districts that cut corners on this essential staff member find only that the resulting problems are worse – even more complicated and more controversial.

This professional administrator is the essential foundation of a safe and sensible program worthy of the name “educational athletics.”

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.