Gut Check

October 18, 2016

After nearly eight years on the staff of the National Federation of State High school Associations, I accepted the challenge of leading an effort by a private business to consolidate the insurance needs of high school athletic associations and to control their coverages and costs through a self-insuring pool. My assigned goal was to assemble at least half of the 50 states in this fund. The need was so great at that time for comprehensive general liability and directors and officers insurance tailored to the unique needs of state high school athletic associations, that the group was quickly assembled and launched.

My time leading this effort was brief. In spite of the program's immediate success and continued growth, I became uncomfortable. The discomfort was born and grew in the fact that while I was out meeting with states, decisions were being made back at the home office that I was not involved with or aware of. I began to feel used ... my credibility was bringing in business, but changes were being made without my input; and I feared for my reputation. After a year of this, I resigned the position. That was 1981.

Nine years later, the companies' CEO was terminated when it was discovered that he used the construction of a company headquarters office to build himself a new house at the same time, burying his home construction costs into the books of the companies' capital expenses. Seven years after that, the companies' founder and namesake went to jail for operating from 1984 until at least 1993 what was determined to have been a Ponzi-like scheme.

I listened to my gut which, long before my head, knew something was not right. In fact, my gut seemed on alert well before things went wrong. This has happened at other crossroads and dozens of less dramatic moments in my professional and personal lives.

In this time of increasingly complex and difficult decisions, both personal and professional, the gut may be a good guide for us all.

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.