The Meaning of Success

December 8, 2015

All of the MHSAA’s fall season tournaments have ended. A small sliver of our hundreds of member school teams are clutching championship trophies.

Thankfully, those few trophies do not define success.

Some teams won their first ever MHSAA Regional title this fall, and a few more won their first MHSAA District championship ... and those go down in their local lore as the most successful teams in those schools’ histories. Deservedly so.

But even those situations do not define success adequately.

Some teams had their first winning record in many years. Some teams didn’t accomplish that goal but won twice as many games as the year before; and they rightfully claimed their seasons a success.

Some teams lost almost every game but kept pulling together without back-biting or complaining. And that too is success.

I once told a team of T-ballers I was coaching that they had a perfect record: six wins and six losses. Six times they had to deal with victories; six times they had to deal with losses. That’s also a good definition of success.

And finally ... singer/songwriter Sam Baker has written this lyric about his aspirations to play professional ice hockey: “I failed well; and that made all the difference.”

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.