Lost Leaders

April 12, 2016

What’s the greatest threat to the future of school sports? It’s not concussions, for school sports are actually more safe each year, not less. It’s not a lack of civility, for our events are still the most sportsmanlike of any highly competitive sports program. It’s not cost, for school sports remain the cheapest form of organized sports to play and to watch.

Actually, the greatest threat to the future of school sports is from the self-inflicted wounds by local school district boards of education. The decisions to devalue the local high school athletic administrator. Heaping more and more duties on a person who is being given less and less time, training and support to perform those duties.

The full-time athletic administrator, with support for clerical duties and event supervision and without many other duties added on, is an increasingly rare situation in schools today. And when that person retires, moves up or otherwise moves on, it is typical that the replacement is less experienced, given even more unrelated duties to perform, and given less time in which to do them.

It’s then that the athletic director looks to coaches to run their own programs; and when the school coach is a nonfaculty person, this is a delegation of school sports to a non-school person.

Is it any wonder then that philosophies suffer, policies are ignored and problems occur?

Is it any wonder then that people who see no difference between the philosophies of school and non-school sports question why schools should spend any time at all on this aspect of adolescent development? They become all too ready to leave sports to the community.

Every shortcut to school sports administration has a consequence. Every dollar we try to squeeze from the school sports budget has a hidden higher cost. Every non-athletic duty we add to the athletic director’s day is another step closer to schools without sports.

And the secondary schools admired by the rest of the world will become ordinary.

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.