An Excuse to Get Together

March 15, 2013

I recently heard a veteran teacher tell the story of years ago when she was leading a church youth group which was meeting regularly to prepare a play.  The group met frequently for many months.

Eventually, one of the church members, and parent of one of the youth, asked when the group would be performing their production.  The teacher/leader responded, “That’s not the point.  The play is just an excuse for getting together.” 

Hearing this story resonated with me as I thought back to my years as a high school student who participated in sports, drama and choral music, and as I thought about my two sons who did the same in middle school and high school, and as I thought about my too-brief time as a teacher/coach.  The contests, concerts and dramatic performances for the public were almost entirely beside the point.

What was more important by far was getting together with other students to work together on projects outside the classroom.  To do positive things, creative things.  To experiment under controlled conditions.  To develop a team spirit.

This is why it is especially important that schools maintain broad and deep extracurricular options for students.  Important particularly that they not only maintain but grow subvarsity programs where the emphasis is more likely to keep focused on practice more than games, and teaching and learning more than winning and recordkeeping.

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.