The “Extra” Ingredient

December 20, 2016

Every meeting agenda of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Representative Council opens with the “Ten Basic Beliefs for Interscholastic Athletics in Michigan.” Here’s No. 1:

Interscholastic athletics were begun outside the school day and curriculum and remain there as voluntary, extracurricular programs in which qualifying students earn the privilege of participation.

There are those who prefer to substitute “co-curricular” for “extracurricular.” Their hearts are in the right place. They mean well; but they’re wrong.

Competitive interscholastic athletic programs can be educational without being part of the school’s curriculum. If sponsored by schools and conducted by schools, these programs must be a positive, educational experience. But these programs are outside the academic curriculum, and almost always outside the classroom day; and no student has the right to participate in these programs. It’s a privilege students earn by meeting standards of eligibility and conduct; and often these students have to compete to earn a spot on the team and playing time in contests.

Interscholastic athletic programs are important after-school activities that enrich the lives of participants. No student has the right to participate in these programs, but we are right to fight for the presentation of broad and deep interscholastic athletic programs in our schools.

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.