The Measure of Success

February 17, 2017

In January of 2016, my counterparts in the statewide high school associations across the U.S. came together for about nine hours of professionally facilitated discussion.

We were challenged to tell our story, to say what we believe about high school sports and describe the values of educational athletics. We worked together to craft the narrative of school sports, the message of educational athletics and the meaning – the “why” of our work.

We were challenged to clarify what success means in school-sponsored sports – to distinguish our definition of success from that of sports on all other levels by all other sponsors.

On Jan. 11 of this year, during the meeting of the Classification Committee of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, one of the committee members – an active coach and athletic director – chastised and inspired us. He said (and I paraphrase):

“We spend so much time on MHSAA tournaments when that experience can be just one month or one week or one day. Half the teams are eliminated in their first day of the baseball, basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball and other MHSAA tournaments.

“We need to move our focus from MHSAA tournaments to the regular season, to the 9- or 18-game regular season, and to the 100 to 200 practices that occur over three or four months of each season.”

The Classification Committee was discussing the future of 8-player football and the effect of its growth on the 11-player game. He said:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 11-player, 8-player or any other number. The values don’t change. The lessons aren’t altered. The purpose isn’t modified. In everything, we are helping young people become better adults.”

That’s how we measure success.

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.