Inclusion Then and Now

October 24, 2017

It is accurate to say, and we can be proud that it is true, that there was no more inclusive state high school athletic association in the country at its inception than the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

In Michigan from the official beginning of the MHSAA, ours was one single athletic association. Not separate associations for schools with black students and white students, like some states then. Not separate associations for public schools and private schools, like some states. Not separate associations for big city schools and other schools, like some associations.

This association is unique in the U.S.: From its creation in 1924, by state law, open to urban and rural schools, black and white schools, public and private schools, and both high schools and junior highs. The MHSAA may be the only state interscholastic athletic association that can say all four of those statements were true at its inception.

We have in Michigan a legacy of inclusion that is second to none.

In recent years, we have added to this tradition through the inclusion of 6th-graders who, as a result of a change in the MHSAA’s Constitution in 2015, are now benefiting from MHSAA services, support and rules-making.

But, to be honest, the MHSAA has slipped some in comparison to the expanded inclusiveness of other state interscholastic athletic associations:

  • Compared to Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee, for examples, we do not sponsor and conduct events for junior high/middle school students, even when those students seek to compete under the MHSAA brand and banner.

  • Compared to many states, we are slower to add new sports for high school tournaments, even when students clamor for the opportunity to represent their schools in competition.

  • Compared to many states, we are slower to add programming for students with disabilities.

The MHSAA and its members cannot be all things to all people – that could obscure our mission and it would exceed our resources. But we should consider programming for more people.

The future of our society is in full-service schools developing the whole child in mind, body and spirit; and an essential ingredient of full-service schools is interscholastic athletics and activities. The ideal must be to serve the whole child and, as much as possible, the whole community of children.

That secures the future of schools and school sports as well as communities and their children.

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.