Guarding the Gate

February 24, 2012

More slowly than I would like, because it’s not a field in which I’ve had formal training or extensive practical experience, I’ve been learning about the world of startup companies and venture capitalists that discovered the sports world in the 1990s and have proliferated during the past decade.

Usually with their founder making the contact, many of these young companies have reached out to the MHSAA, hoping we will embrace and endorse or utilize their new product or service. Almost all owe their existence to the World Wide Web and to the passion of their founder, either for sports or for a concept they think solves some need of athletes, coaches or fans . . . or advertisers and sponsors.

And almost every one of these startups is looking for an exit; looking for a bigger fish to swallow them whole. And paying them handsomely for consuming the young guppy. A lucky few make what the industry calls the “Big Exit,” like a major network buying the startup for many millions of dollars.

We hear from many of these startups that the advertisers are clamoring for this or that they are promoting, but we usually see one of two things happen. Either the advertisers show so little interest that the startup fails, or what support the advertisers do provide goes to the venture capitalists and not to those providing the content.

As we screen the plethora of proposals to capitalize on high school sporting events in Michigan, we look for two kinds of assurances. First, that the suitor doesn’t have an exit strategy; and second, that the initiative will have direct benefit in terms of both money and message to those providing the content:  i.e., schools.

Most of the initiatives we screen will assist schools with neither money nor message, and some of them would actually provide a message that is contrary to the mission of educational athletics.

So we’re guarding the gate, in both directions – controlling the entrance to the high school sports market in Michigan, as well as the escape of those who are in our market for a fast buck and quick exit, big or small.

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.