Moving Forward

December 28, 2012

Coaches will often convey to their teams a variation of this theme:  “If we’re not moving forward, we’re falling behind.”  And with such immediate feedback – the next contest – coaches can measure their team’s progress quite easily. Progress is harder to measure for the organizations that serve and support coaches and athletes.

If we are doing our jobs well, we will have both an “inside game” and an “outside game.”  We will create our own opportunities to improve our services and we will be alert to opportunities to improve ourselves when they are handed to us or forced upon us from outside sources.  Both types of change can be positive.

  • Change from inside has the benefit of institutional knowledge.  This change can be informed, measured and careful to avoid unintended consequences that hurt more than help customers.
  • Change from outside can be less rational but also less restrained by history and culture.  It can be more disruptive in a positive sense, perhaps more innovative in origin and more expansive in impact.

It’s my sense that, as the calendar turns from 2012 to 2013, the MHSAA is at the merging of two lanes of traffic – an inside lane of change combining with an outside lane change – which will modify some services and move them forward at unprecedented speeds during the new year and the next.

  • This has been obvious as we have partnered with ArbiterSports to prepare the ArbiterGame scheduling software for our member schools.  Hard work internally that’s about to show results to schools and their publics.
  • This may become obvious as we expand our schedule of inexpensive camps for inexperienced officials.  This could be an antecedent to additional training requirements for MHSAA tournament officials.  The public expects better, and we can do better.
  • This may also become obvious as we expand offerings and then add requirements for coaching education focused on maximizing good health and minimizing risk.  There is a gathering parade of experts and evidence advocating for much more training for many more coaches; and we must find our way to the head of that column.

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.