My Privilege

June 29, 2018

The National Federation of State High School Associations is at this moment conducting its 99th Annual Summer Meeting in Chicago, the city where the organization was born almost a century ago.

For all but seven months of the past 62 of these 99 years, there has been a John Roberts as one of the NFHS member state association executives – my dad in Wisconsin for nearly 30 years, and I in Michigan for 32.

I attended my first NFHS Summer Meeting when I was eight years old. Five of us in an un-air-conditioned family sedan drove nearly the full length of US Highway 41 from Wisconsin to Miami Beach at the southern tip of Florida.

My younger sister learned to swim there. My older sister found a boyfriend there. And I guess I discovered my life’s work there.

A life’s work from which I will retire this summer.

Including those on the job today, there have been just 324 individuals who have ever served as full-time chief executives of the NFHS member high school associations. Just 324 who appreciate the pressures and the opportunities of this work the way my dad and I have.

These jobs are precious gifts and a rich blessing ... unusually rare opportunities to serve and influence students, schools and society.

For years I’ve concluded most of my correspondence with the phrase, “It’s a privilege to serve you.” I’ve meant it.

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.