The Most Important Decisions

October 13, 2015

During the course of contests, coaches and officials make many mistakes – not as many as spectators might think, of course – but mistakes certainly do happen. In the heat of competition, most are quickly forgotten.

Those mistakes that occur near the end of games or are caught on camera can live longer than dozens of more consequential decisions earlier in the event that might later be determined to be incorrect in the 20/20 hindsight of “Monday morning quarterbacking.” But it is extraordinarily rare that any decision during a contest defines a career, or ends it.

No, the decisions that do most to damage, detour or destroy a coaching or officiating career are those made away from the contest. A bad impulse during a social outing, indiscreet comments or conduct caught on video and sent worldwide overnight, or an inappropriate email or website search ... these are the decisions that end up defining the career.

The stakes may be higher for decisions made away from the sport by coaches and officials than the decisions they make in the athletic arena. Every week’s sports news tells me this is correct. Hundreds or even thousands of people may witness a judgment call during a contest, while millions upon millions will be exposed to poor judgment exercised away from the contest.

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.