Family Focus

September 2, 2014

The year I graduated from college (1970), 40 percent of U.S. households consisted of a married couple and their children. According to research summarized in AARP The Magazine’s June-July issue, the percentage was only 19 percent in 2013.
Even more startling is this: In 1960, five percent of U.S. births were to unmarried women. In 2012, it was 41 percent.
Very far from the most important impact these trends have on life in America today is the slice of American society we serve: competitive school sports.
In the 1960s and 1970s, schools would expect two parents in attendance for each child’s games or meets. In 2014, it is not unusual that one or infrequent that both parents are absent when their son or daughter competes.
Of course, school programs today have more boys sports and an almost entirely new slate of girls sports for parents to observe than two generations ago; and many times multiple events are scheduled simultaneously and force attentive parents to miss one child’s game while another child competes elsewhere.
It’s not my purpose here to point to specific strategies needed to keep parents constructively engaged in school sports. The limit of my commentary now is to offer a reminder, even to myself, that the manner in which we did things when the family unit looked one way is very likely in need of an overhaul, or at least a tweak, when the family unit looks very different.
The challenge, of course, is finding new avenues for old messages – fresh ways to deliver lasting core values. If we continue to proclaim that our brand is family friendly, we will meet this challenge.

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.