Failing Boys

July 9, 2012

In the autumn of 2002, I included the following statement in a longer editorial in the MHSAA Bulletin:

“Year after year I go to league and conference scholar-athlete awards banquets and see girls outnumber boys by wide margins:  54 girls to 33 boys honored at a March event in mid-Michigan is typical of what has occurred many places over many years.

“Year after year, I attend senior honors programs and see girls outnumber boys:  147 awards to girls versus 70 awards to boys honored at a May event in mid-Michigan is typical.

“Look at these figures from the National Federation of State High School Associations:
• “68.3% of vocal music participants are girls.
• 66.4% of participants in group interpretation speech activities are girls.
• 63.3% of participants in individual speech events are girls.
• 62.7% of orchestra members are girls.
• 61% of dramatics participants are girls.”

Nothing since that time has changed my opinion that schools and society at large are expecting far too little of boys.  It’s as if boys get a free pass from high expectations if they do sports and don’t do drugs.  Far too little is asked of far too many of our male students.

Now add this to the story:  There is a growing body of research that supports the premise that while high school sports participation is great for girls, it’s actually bad for high school boys.  Bad because it leads to lower participation in non-athletic activities, lower achievement in the classroom, and lower scores on measures of personal conduct and character than their female counterparts.

Males are dropping out of high schools at higher rates and enrolling in colleges at lower rates than females.  They’re abusing drugs at higher rates than females, and males are committing both violent and petty crimes at much higher rates than females.  Could much of this be linked to the low expectations we have for high school students?  Isn’t it time for organized advocacy on behalf of boys?

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.