The Investment

February 3, 2015

Last month, Steve Christilaw who writes for the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review, ended an opinion piece with these statements:
“. . . a strong, vibrant society invests in its future by investing in young people. What our youth can learn from playing sports are life lessons we, as a society, place at a high value.

“How we pay for it all – education, the arts and athletics – has become a political football . . . and it deserves to be treated as the serious and significant investment that it truly is.”
Previous to that conclusion, Christilaw opined from his experience that the values of participation in school-sponsored sports are different than what young people gain in non-school club teams where the focus is more often on one’s self than cooperating with a team and representing a school or entire community.
There are those, of course, who see athletics as a distraction from the educational mission of academic institutions. I don’t doubt that can be the case in some places on some occasions; and I know from experience that leadership must be vigilant to keep a lid on the program and resist those who wish to take school sports to extremes.
But athletic programs which are true to the mission of supporting the educational mission of schools are far more the rule than the exception, most often operating at small fractions of the school budget, and most often involving large majorities of the student body.
A “serious and significant investment” indeed.

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.