The Massachusetts Model

August 19, 2016

Late last spring the veteran executive director of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, Bill Gaine, spent a half-day at the offices of the Michigan High School Athletic Association to share insights about ways state association staff can serve the mission of educational athletics. Here are some of my notes from that experience:

  • “Steal and build.” At the MIAA, the approach has been to steal the good ideas of others and build upon those ideas.

  • “Marry student life with academic life.” The MIAA leadership tries to make an intentional, purposeful connection between the after-school and school programs of MIAA schools.

  • “Connect rhetoric with policies and programs. You can’t have just policies or only programs; you must have both.”

Over 18 years, five pillars of policy and programs have evolved for the MIAA: Health and Wellness in 1984, Sportsmanship in 1993, Coaches Education in 1998, Student Leadership in 2001, and Community Service in 2002. All constituents get the whole package all the time, according to Gaine; and there is an MIAA staff person in charge of each pillar.

The “5 Pillars” is the curriculum the MIAA teaches athletic directors, with specific lesson plans. Gaine says, “The AD is the school’s curriculum coordinator for educational athletics.”

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.