History Reveals Legacy

December 5, 2017

It is well established in dusty textbooks and derelict files that the National Federation of State High School Associations owes its origins to a small group of Midwest high school athletic associations, and that the most significant accomplishment within the National Federation’s first decade of existence was to influence the end of national tournaments for high school teams and individuals.

I joined this National Federation as a staff member about halfway through the organization’s march to its centennial celebration scheduled for 2019. A large part of my initial duties was helping to administer recently started services for high school athletic directors – first a national conference, then a publication, and then a national organization, now called the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

This programming was launched in large part to frustrate efforts by what was then called the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, which had formed a national athletic directors organization that was tending in directions the National Federation opposed – from federal legislation to national competitions.

A few years later, the National Federation created the National Federation Interscholastic Coaches Association. Again, a primary reason for doing so was to counter the efforts of a man in Florida who had created a national high school athletic coaches association whose almost sole purpose was to conduct national high school championship events.

National Federation opposition to national events in high school athletics is not “one and done.” Yes, it’s in the core of the National Federation’s founding; but it’s also at the heart of its more recent launching of national organizations and services for athletic directors, and then for coaches.

Opposition to national high school athletic events isn’t ancient history for the National Federation; it is the organization’s living legacy.

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.