New World, New Needs

October 3, 2017

The core of our current transfer rule was debated by a predecessor organization 20 years before the Michigan High School Athletic Association existed, in 1904. The MHSAA’s first handbook stated the rule in 1925: a one-semester wait to play after a change of schools, unless accompanied by a residential change by the student and parents or guardians. A one-semester wait, with one exception.

In 1971, the number of stated exceptions went from one to twelve.

It’s in 1981 when sentiment seemed to shift toward a harder line when the exception from a “broken home” approved by both school principals was toughened to require a completed divorce decree and a form signed by both principals and the MHSAA executive director.

When the transfer rule was adopted, the world was different than today. In 1904, 1925, 1971, even 1981, it was both a different society and youth sports landscape.

There were many more three-sport athletes then than today and many more three-sport coaches. There were many fewer non-school youth sports programs then than now, and many fewer nonfaculty coaches. And, of course, there was no school of choice.

Increasing year-round single-sport specialization by both students and coaches; ubiquitous specialized sports camps, clinics, trainers, travel teams and leagues – where both students and parents are making friends; more reliance on drop-in, nonfaculty coaches for school teams; and expanding open enrollment laws have combined to change our world.

And they combine to suggest the need for more changes in the MHSAA transfer rule.

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.