Fundamentals vs. Fads

July 9, 2013

During the summer weeks, "From the Director" will bring to you some of our favorite entries from previous years. Today's blog first appeared Aug. 9, 2011.

While examining some ancient fabrics at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, my wife explained to me the “warp and weft” of weaving – how the vertical fibers are the warp and the horizontal fibers are the weft.

What intrigued me about the ancient remnants was that the vertical fibers of wool had survived the centuries so much better than the left-to-right-fibers of linen and silk. I was informed that the vertical fibers (the warp) gave the fabric its durability, while the horizontal fibers (the weft) provided the design. And the strength lasted long after the color had faded.

My vacationing mind then jumped quickly across the ocean and centuries to my working preoccupation with the essentials of school-based sports. I reflected on how certain principles on which educational athletics are based have withstood challenge after challenge over time, even as some of the earlier features of school sports have faded.

This travel memory will serve as a reminder to me to focus on the fundamentals – on those core values of school sports that are essential and allow us to claim that the programs are educational – and to worry less about the superficial features that will inevitably change with the trends and fads over the years. Determining which is which – distinguishing fundamentals from fads – is one of the challenges the leaders of school sports must face.

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.