The Goldilocks Solution

December 2, 2014

Somewhere I read that there’s little to gain by trying to bring simplicity to what’s complex or sanity to what’s crazy. But we keep trying.

Last month we compiled results of a survey through which 513 MHSAA member high school athletic directors provided information about the out-of-season activities of their students and coaches and offered opinions regarding ideas to modify the rules that control those who want to do so much that it would force others to do more than they believe is sane for school-sponsored, student-centered competitive athletic programs.

A nearly equal number of schools from each classification were included in the 513 schools that responded to this opportunity to add more information and insight to this year-long look at MHSAA out-of-season coaching rules.

Some preliminary number crunching reveals (without surprise) that there are differences between large schools vs. small and more populated areas vs. less – differences both in the amount of organized out-of-season sports activity in which students engage and in the openness of their athletic directors to new ideas for regulating out-of-season activities by students with their school coaches. Generally, larger schools and/or schools in more populous areas see students participating in more organized out-of-season athletic activities, and they are more open to changing how those activities are regulated.

And so it continues ... finding that sweet spot that fits the perspectives and problems of a very diverse membership that supervises a wide variety of sports. The “Goldilocks” solution that doesn’t do too much, or too little.

The results that I’ll be looking for as we continue to gather information and facilitate discussions is no specific set of rule changes, but rather, to move MHSAA policies and procedures toward these two goals:

  • Rules simpler to understand, follow and enforce. Even good rules are bad if they are too cumbersome.
  • Rules that do not add pressure on students or coaches to focus on a single sport year-round. There is plenty of data that informs us that parents do too much of that already.

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.