More Than A Myth

September 5, 2014

Without a sure sense of what the outcome should be, we are engaging school administrators and others in a year-long discussion of possible revisions in out-of-season coaching rules.
We know that we would like the outcome to be simpler rules that are easier to understand and enforce; and that we would like to permit coaches to spend more time with student-athletes out of season; and that we want none of this to make coaches feel like they must coach one sport year-round to be successful or make student-athletes feel like they must play a single sport year-round just to make the team.
If there is a policy that can accomplish the good that we hope for and avoid the bad that we fear, we haven’t yet found it or developed it.
There is a temptation to characterize the multi-sport athlete as an anachronism or myth of modern school sports. However, the multi-sport athlete remains the backbone of interscholastic athletic programs in Class C and D schools.
And the multi-sport athlete still appears to be the ideal athlete, regardless of school size. It is an instructive reminder, I think, that the Lansing State Journal named a three-sport star from Ithaca as its high school male athlete of the year for 2013-14, and it was a four-sport athlete from Eaton Rapids who was named the high school female athlete of the year.
Following my presentation to coaches, student-athletes and parents at Jonesville High School last month, a student approached me to offer thanks for our sponsoring bowling. Jonesville won the MHSAA’s 2014 Division 4 Boys Bowling championship; and the young man who thanked me participates in football, bowling and baseball for his school, representing in my mind the kind of student we should strive the hardest to serve as we develop, revisit and revise policies and programs.

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.