Mounting Evidence

October 10, 2014

On three occasions over the last three months alone, I’ve posted opinions and statistics about the downsides of sports specialization, often citing the work and words of others because, frankly, I’m expected to oppose sports specialization – it’s in my DNA and job description – and anyway, the experts always come from some other place.
  • On July 15 (“Misspent Money”), the Chicago Tribune’s William Hageman was the reporter and Utah State University provided the research. The message was that sports specialization is a serious waste of family resources.

  • On July 18 (“Specialization Risks”), the renowned David Epstein was the writer and Loyola University of Chicago provided the work. The message was that serious health risks make specialization counterproductive to successful sports careers.

  • On Sept. 5 (“More Than a Myth”), I reported that the Lansing State Journal picked a three-sport male and four-sport female as its 2013-14 high school athletes of the year – practical proof that the reports of the death of the multi-sport athlete are greatly exaggerated.

Last month, Athletic Business recalled its August 2013 interview with the often quoted Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon and injury consultant and author of “Any Given Monday: Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them for Athletes, Parents and Coaches – Based on My Life in Sports Medicine.” In this interview, Dr. Andrews reiterated his earlier statements (some quoted in earlier postings here) that there is a “dramatic increase in overuse injuries ... due in large part to kids participating in one sport all year ...”

Athletic Business editor-in-chief Dennis Van Milligen added in his September 2014 editorial:

“Parents are ‘investing’ outrageous amounts of money into their children’s athletic development, because the fear is that they will not reach the level they need to without specialization, a notion constantly disproved.”

For multiple reasons, the multiple-sport experience is best. We must strive continually to make that experience possible for most of our student-athletes.

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.