Future Thinking

August 11, 2017

The prolific author Thomas Friedman has written more than once that those who don’t invest in the future tend not to do well there.

What might it mean to invest in the future of interscholastic athletics? What are the things we should be doing now that may not show immediate results, but are essential for securing a future for school-sponsored sports? 

Two things, I believe, most of all ...

One is the emphasis on serving and supporting junior high/middle school programs. Getting to students and their parents at this stage and even earlier with the meaning of educational athletics. With a definition of success and demonstrations of sportsmanship that differ from other programs. With encouragement to sample different sports and to eschew year-round practice and competition in a single sport. Feeding the roots of high school sports with the nutrients of educational athletics.

The second is the education of coaches, the delivery system of most of these important messages about school sports. What the MHSAA does season after season with rules/risk management meetings and week after week with the Coaches Advancement Program, and what local school administrators do day after day to manage, mentor and motivate coaches. These efforts may not show quick returns, but they are essential investments in the future of school sports.

We cannot expect to do well in the future if we do not pay attention to our foundation – junior high/middle school programs – and to our infrastructure – coaches.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.