“Just A Spectator”

July 6, 2016

I have often employed one of two strategies for my attendance at MHSAA tournaments.

The one I have used least frequently is to stand where spectators enter and welcome them or, after the events, position myself at exits and thank spectators for attending. I’m an introvert, so this doesn’t come naturally and I don’t do this often, even though I’m gratified by receiving a “Thank You” from nearly every spectator who responds.

The strategy I have used more often is to be “just a spectator” – to stand in line to purchase a ticket, find my unreserved seat and listen to the people around me – folks I don’t know and who don’t know me. I’m more comfortable with this anonymous undercover approach, and I tend to learn more.

I learn that there is a general appreciation for the differences between school-sponsored sports and sports on all other levels by all other sponsors.

The spectators appreciate the inexpensive admission prices, but they complain about the cost of concessions at the college and professional venues in comparison to the school venues which host MHSAA tournaments.

I see that, generally, girls compete with more obvious joy than boys. I see that injuries are few; but, when they occur, they are taken seriously and attended to professionally. I see that the players exhibit better sportsmanship than anyone else at the venue.

The spectators expect and generally accept that mistakes will be made – by players, coaches and officials. They are hardest on officials; but many parents are hard on players, coaches and officials alike. I find this the most discouraging aspect of attending high school athletic events, which otherwise re-energizes me for the MHSAA’s work.

And I see that the MHSAA has much work to do, and that our work of the past several years to enhance the spectator experience is important, and that our work is far from finished – not just at our most high profile finals, but also (maybe especially) at lower profile championships and earlier round tournaments of many sports. This is a priority for which the MHSAA is getting more help in 2016-17 – engaging professional expertise to enhance our amateur events.

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.