High-Performing Programs

July 10, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com June 28, 2011, and was printed in the September/October 2006 MHSAA Bulletin, and in Lasting Impressions, which appears in the MHSAA's online Library.)

A study of 10 academically-oriented after-school programs in New York City funded by the After-School Corporation may provide some unintended guidance for interscholastic athletic programs.

Prepared in November 2005 by Policy Studies Associates, Inc. for the After-School Corporation and Southwest Educational Development Laboratory with support from the U.S. Department of Education, the report “Shared Features of High Performing After-School Programs” identifies the following characteristics of high performing after-school programs:

  • A broad array of enrichment opportunities. 
  • Opportunities for skill building and mastery. 
  • Intentional relationship building. 
  • A strong, experienced leader/manager supported by a trained and supervised staff. 
  • The administrative, fiscal and professional development support of the sponsoring organization.

While competitive junior high/middle school and high school sports were not the subject of this study, here’s what I think these findings could mean for school sports:

  • Interscholastic athletic programs should provide a wide variety of opportunities appealing to a diverse group of students.

  • Interscholastic athletic programs should provide competitive opportunities for the highly skilled as well as learning opportunities for the less skilled so they too might progress to higher levels of competency, or just enjoy the fun, friends and fitness of school sports.

  • Teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership should be outcomes as intentional as development of skills of the sport and strategies of contests.

  • A full-time athletic administrator is essential, and it is imperative this person have authority to train and supervise staff and hold them accountable for performance consistent with the best practices of educational athletics.

  • School boards and their administrators must provide sound policies and procedures, adequate financial support and opportunities for continuing education for the athletic director and every coach.

All in all, a pretty good blueprint for school sports in Michigan.

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.