The Needle

March 2, 2012

Jordan Cobb is one of the MHSAA’s superbly talented staff members; and one of his many duties may intrigue you.

Jordan watches “the needle.” 

The “chartbeat” needle tells us, at any moment, how many visitors we have to  It even tells us what page they’re viewing on, how they got there, and where they’re located in the world.

Not so long ago, Jordan would fret on a Friday night in the fall that our servers did not have the capacity to handle all those looking for game scores.  Through lots of creative programming and work-arounds, and an in-house eight-unit “server farm” that shifts and spreads loads to accommodate peak demands, Jordan now watches the needle more in wonder than with worry.

On most Friday nights during the fall and winter, and for the entire months of November and March, is among the one percent most visited U.S. websites – on any topic, not just sports.

Even on a quiet weekday afternoon, there will at all times be one to two hundred viewers navigating

A decade or two ago, the MHSAA office would not receive two hundred telephone calls per day or two hundred letters per week.  Now, every second of the workday and long into the evening and all weekend long, one hundred to one thousand people or more are making contact with the MHSAA at

So deserves our attention and resources.  It is creating first and lasting impressions.  It is branding us, and doing so far beyond the walls of schools and the borders of our state.

Most importantly, it is demonstrating what we value.  It is conveying messages about who we are, what we do and what we believe.  And providing a stark contrast to who we are not and what we don’t do and don’t believe.

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.