Glue and Grace

October 9, 2012

Recent events, obvious to you, caused me to return to an article the MHSAA published in August of 1999.  Here it is again:

Three days after the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a retired athletic administrator whom I respect greatly and listened to intently, called me to say this: 

“You have an opportunity to speak to student-athletes in this state and across the country.  Talk to them about Littleton.”

This administrator wanted me to convey to athletes that they were not a part of the many and complex causes of the Columbine carnage, but they play a small part of the solution to help assure such craziness doesn’t occur closer to home.

The administrator was referencing some of the media reports that suggested the youthful killers took offense to the “jocks.”  Valid or not, these suggestions provide another wake-up call for those who claim that school-sponsored sports are healthy for the participants, school and community.

As a result, part of my conversations with student-athletes this year and the heart of my message to team captains in 1999-00, will be this:

    • Break down the walls, real or perceived, between the athletes of your schools and other students.  Avoid cliques limited to team members or even athletes in general.
    • When you walk the school halls and shopping malls, greet fellow students warmly, regardless of their involvement in school sports or other activities.  Let them know that you know they exist.
    • Become more sensitive to the needs of others, especially those who are different than you.  Appreciate that while you may be more gifted in some things, other students are more gifted in other things.  Show a genuine interest in those things. 
    • Understand that you are not the center of the universe.  Accept that it is your role to serve others, and not the other way around.
    • Don’t condescend, but concentrate on the rich worth of other people.  Seek them out.  Involve them.  Enter into their worlds and invite them into yours until such time as it is difficult to recognize different worlds in your school and community.

I believe this goal for the interscholastic athletic program, embraced by every administrator, participant and parent, would help us:  That  every participant be involved in academic and non-academic matters, athletic and non-athletic activities, be a star in one thing and a substitute in another, be on stage and backstage, in solo and ensemble, experiencing both winning and losing.

A student involved in such an experience as this could not help but provide glue and grace to a student body.

No student-athlete anywhere is remotely responsible for the massacre in Littleton, Colorado.  But student-athletes everywhere have an opportunity to be a small part of an environment that assures such a tragedy is not repeated where they live, study and play.  Talk to them.

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.