Leadership Impressions - #3 (Embracing Interruptions)

June 15, 2018

I was once told that “the job is the interruptions” – to look at an interruption not as something that detracts from my work but rather is the work. But there are two types of interruptions that have gotten my special attention over the years.

One type happens often, perhaps twice a week when averaged over the course of a year. It happens when the assistant directors of the Michigan High School Athletic Association are asked a novel Handbook question, one of first impression in their experience, and there is a difference of opinion among their colleagues as to the correct answer.

I expect to be involved in answering such questions; and sometimes I determine that the question needs MHSAA Executive Committee attention – for ultimately under the MHSAA Constitution, it is the Executive Committee’s responsibility to interpret what is not clear in Handbook Regulations and Interpretations.

The other type of interruption happens not twice a week but about twice a year, when a legal challenge confronts the MHSAA. It has been our practice to keep other staff focused on the daily business of the MHSAA, helping to make tournaments and other programs operate without distraction; while the executive director (as well as the associate director in more recent years) deals with litigation, which is usually a three- to six-month sprint but can also be a three- to six-year marathon.

I expect to insulate other staff from these diversions that can suck time and energy out of a forward-looking staff.

We anticipate that every day will bring us questions that were not on that day’s to-do list. We try to treat those interruptions as an important part of our work.

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.