Hard Fun

June 22, 2018

One of the features that attracts students to school sports is that competitive athletics is “hard fun.” Most students want to have fun, and most students ascribe greater value to that which doesn’t come too easily.

I don’t think we change much as we mature. We continue to value most the things that require effort ... the activities which, when completed, feel like an accomplishment.

It’s why I cherish my recent high altitude hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu ... the hardest physical challenge I’ve had since double-session football practices in high school and college.

It’s why coaches often will say their favorite season was the .500 record with over-achievers, not the conference championship with under-achievers.

It’s why students will return to class reunions this summer, 10 and 20 years after their graduation, and compliment especially the teachers and coaches who required the most of them as students and athletes.

What the very best classrooms and competitive athletic and activity programs do is challenge students. They push students to discover that they can move beyond where they thought their limits might be. They encourage students to explore their capabilities and to experience the joy of exceeding their expectations.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.