Making the Game Safer

October 6, 2015

I’ve recently overheard two insightful perspectives about football.

From an attorney for the National Federation of State High School Associations (I’m paraphrasing): “We need to remind people that we didn’t invent football. We are the ones making it safer.”

From a professor at Michigan State University (again I’m paraphrasing): “In the 1950s when automobile injuries disturbed the national conscience, we didn’t abolish cars; we made it safer to drive them. That’s where we are with football today – recognizing dangers and making the game safer.”

What this means to me is that there’s little need to be on the defensive or apologetic, but much need to be on the offensive and to be optimistic about football’s future.

Never has the equipment been better than it is today. Never have coaches been better educated about player safety. Never have there been more safety rules, and never have officials had more authority and encouragement to enforce those rules. This is true for all school sports, but most obviously so for school-sponsored football.

We are on offense, have been for years, making a game that was very good to me as a player even better, every year, for participants at the secondary school level today.

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.