A Hot Topic

July 10, 2012

It is a terrible irony that Georgia saw two of its high school football players die late last summer when it’s the Georgia High School Association that was providing us with the best information we’ve ever had about the risks of heat illness and death.

The deaths occurred in the third year of a thorough three-year study in Georgia that is reinforcing common sense. The study is confirming who is most at risk and when they’re most at risk.

  • Who is most at risk? Linemen more than other players; underclassmen more than older players; those who have had the flu or similar sickness more than others.
  • When are they most at risk? During the season’s first week more than the second. During the second practice of a double session day more than the first. During the second half of the second practice more than the first half, and, early in the morning when humidity is often highest.

It all makes perfect sense: the chubby 9th or 10th grader during the second half of the second practice during the first week of the season. And because it’s statistically predictable, heat illness is almost entirely preventable.

There is some danger here in over-generalizing and over-simplifying, but awareness of these tendencies will help coaches to schedule and administrators to legislate around high-risk scenarios. We expect both will be happening 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.