More Than X’s & O’s

April 17, 2015

It’s nearly the fourth quarter. We are just completing year six of eight years in which we have been addressing four important health and safety issues that, for ease of conversation, we call the “Four H’s.” These are much more important than the X’s and O’s of sports.
During the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, the first quarter, our focus was on Health Histories. During this time we made enhancements in the pre-participation physical examination form, stressing the student’s health history, which we believe was and is the essential first step to participant health and safety.
During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, the second quarter, our focus was on Heads. We were an early adopter – before state law mandates – of removal-from-play and return-to-play protocols, and our preseason rules/risk management meetings for coaches included information on concussion prevention, recognition and aftercare.
Without leaving that behind, during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, the third quarter, our focus was on Heat – acclimatization. We adopted a policy to manage heat and humidity – it is recommended for regular season and it’s a requirement for MHSAA tournaments. The rules/risk management meetings for coaches during these years focused on heat and humidity management. At the mid-point of this two-year period, the MHSAA adopted policies to enhance acclimatization at early season football practices and to reduce head contact at practices all season long.
Without leaving any of the three previous health and safety “H’s” behind, during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, the fourth quarter, our focus will be on Hearts – sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death. Coinciding with this emphasis is the requirement that all high school level, varsity level head coaches be CPR certified starting this fall. Our emphasis will be on AEDs and emergency action plans – having them and rehearsing them; and this summer we are expecting to deliver to every high school free of charge the “Anyone Can Save a Life” program developed in Minnesota and being distributed nationwide with the assistance of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

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.