February 24, 2017

School sports enjoyed its highest public profile in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was before competition from televised college and professional sports and proliferation of youth sports programs and myriad entertainment alternatives. But school sports has its greatest reach today. This is the era of inclusion.

This began with the near simultaneous expansion of opportunities for boys in a greater variety of sports and the reintroduction of similar athletic opportunities for girls.

The increased focus on the junior high/middle school level and the new opportunities for 6th-grade students to participate either separately or with and against 7th- and 8th-graders are major developments in this era of inclusion.

This era includes exploration of opportunities for students with an ever-widening understanding of physical, mental and emotional conditions that challenge students’ ability to participate in highly competitive and regulated athletic programs. It includes accommodations for students with documented changes in gender identification.

This era of inclusion includes reexamination of rules that limit students’ access to school sports while understanding that much of the value of school sports is a result of the rules for school sports. We know that if we lower the standards of eligibility and conduct, we tend to lower the value of the program to students, schools and society.

This is really the best time ever for school sports. It’s just a lot harder to operate today than 55 or 60 years ago.

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.