Good New, Bad News

July 30, 2012

There’s some “good” news on a bad topic:  participation fees.

In addition to news stories about several school districts which have had fees but are now dropping them, and donors who are stepping up to reduce fees in other districts, the overview provided by the MHSAA’s annual survey of participation fees shows that predictions that fees would explode in frequency and size this year have not come true.

Surely, it is not good news that half of 514 reporting schools charged fees in 2011-12; but that percentage is unchanged from 2010-11.  Nine years ago, when the first survey was conducted, half that percentage charged fees.

Nor is it good news that the median fee charged was $75 in 2011-12; but that number has increased only $5 since 2009-10.  Nine years ago, however, the median fee was less than one-third of what it was this past school year.

The fact that the MHSAA has conducted this survey for nine years and provides resources to help schools fairly and efficiently administer participation fees does not mean we think they are a good thing, or a good way for schools to respond to their financial woes and realities.

  • We don’t think participation fees are the best business decision in an era of competition between school districts to enroll students and capture the accompanying state aid.
  • We don’t think participation fees are good for coaches who face different expectations from parents when they have paid for their child to be on the team.

  • We don’t think participation fees are good for students, especially winter and spring sport athletes and second, third and fourth children in families who sometimes get the short end of things when family budgets are tight.

Participation fees are an impediment to participation, which is an obstacle to student engagement in schools at a time when schools desperately need such investment.  And such fees remove one of the defining differences between school-sponsored sports and community-run youth sports programs.

(Go to Schools – Administrators – Pay-to-Play Resources for more information.)

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.