It’s Not Us

October 2, 2015

There are continuing and crescendoing complaints about “AAU ball” – the travel, the competition without preparation, the agents and hangers-on, the sleaze factor. Yet some of those same complainers are critical of the very rules that tend to keep that sleaze at a low level in school sports in Michigan.

If so many people agree that kids and parents are being sold a bill of goods full of empty promises by a growing number of youth sports zealots, recruiting gurus, and both club and college level coaches, then why should we provide passports that would expose more students to this atmosphere?

If so many people feel that what’s happening in youth sports is bad and what’s masquerading as educational athletics in major college sports is baloney, then why should we help high school students earn frequent flier points through relaxation of time-tested travel and television policies?

If so many people believe there are too many athletic-motivated transfers, then why should we throw fuel on the fire? Those schools which could afford it would try to make their programs more attractive with national travel and televised games as a magnet to suck the best players out of neighboring schools that cannot afford the same excesses.

There is more than enough travel and exposure opportunity for schools here in Michigan and Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Ontario and Wisconsin. Any more adds impure emphases and increased expenses to programs that are already overburdened or bankrupt.

When our school administrators and coaches say that national travel and tournaments are unaffordable and “It’s not us,” they mean it. They’ve got their priorities right.

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.