The Good Old Days?

June 12, 2012

In the 1950s, high school football crowds were often larger than today, and schools’ quirky gyms were never more packed with partisans.  Local newspapers (more numerous then) and radio stations (far fewer then) never gave school sports a greater percentage of column inches or air time than in the 1950s.  Therefore, one might pick a school year in the mid 1950s as the peak of prominence for school sports in America. 

That would be true if you were a boy, and a boy who played one of the few sports sponsored by schools compared to the diverse offerings of 50 to 60 years later.  However, if you were a girl, and even for many boys, there wasn’t much in the way of school sports in which to participate in the so-called heyday, the “good old days,” of high school sports.

If we judge the effectiveness of school sports programs more on the basis of participation than game night attendance, then today’s programs – where many more students participate in a wider variety of activities – are a much healthier and much more educationally sound enterprise than five or six decades ago.  And actually, there are also more spectators today; they’re just dispersed over more venues, sports and levels of teams today than in the 1950s.

More students in a wider variety of sports, supported by more spectators.  By these measures, a better program today than existed a half-century ago.

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.