Marketing Through Middle Schools

October 8, 2013

Often, when I’m not sure that a big change in a policy or procedure of the Michigan High School Athletic Association would be good or bad for school sports in Michigan, I ask myself:  “If we were creating the MHSAA for the first time today, would we do this? Would this change be what we do today?”

Applying this question to the subject of 6th-graders, I believe we would create an association and develop rules that would engage 6th-graders and serve them. Sixth-graders would not be orphans, but a part of the MHSAA, just as they are a part of most of our member school 7th- and 8th-grade buildings.

Young people are starting sports much younger today than 100 years ago when the MHSAA was created, or 50 years ago when the MHSAA was incorporated. If the MHSAA were created today to serve any students before 9th grade, I’m certain it would not leave out 6th-graders who are walking the same halls with 7th- and 8th-graders, and who have been playing competitive sports almost since the first day they starting walking at all.

Furthermore, I’m one of many with this opinion: the most important thing we can do to enhance high school sports is to grow junior high/middle school sports programs.

The earlier we disconnect young people from non-school sports and engage them in school-sponsored sports, the better our chances are of keeping high school athletic programs healthy, and the better our prospects are of keeping both participation rates and conduct standards high.

School sports is in competition for hearts and minds of young people. Our competition includes movies, jobs, cars, video games, boyfriends and girlfriends and club sports . . . especially club sports.

School sports needs to market itself better, and part of better is to be available earlier – much sooner in the lives of youth.

More contests at the junior high/middle school level and more opportunities for 6th-graders should be parts of our marketing strategies on behalf of educational athletics generally.

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.