No Easy Fix

February 13, 2015

“If we don’t fix this problem, even our friends and allies may turn against us.”
That was the dire warning one of the MHSAA staff members gave to the rest of us at a weekly staff meeting recently, during which this staff member was receiving emails from people appalled over the mid-season transfer of a basketball player from one school to another.
The “fix” that some people want is a rule that makes every transfer student ineligible for a full year, regardless of the reason for the change of schools or the circumstances of the student. Of course, that rule would never survive judicial scrutiny, and legislators in every corner of the state would be advocating change for the sake of one child or another.
A more moderate remedy is to utilize a rule that applies the full-year period of ineligibility to those students whose circumstances do not fit one of the already established 15 exceptions that make a student eligible without delay following a transfer. That half-measure would not stop many transfers that would still frustrate people, and it would snag many transfers that would continue to anger people.
The rules we already have in place are tools for schools to use to stop many of the transfers that frustrate without snaring those transfers that anger: the athletic-motivated transfer rule and especially the athletic-related transfer rule (or links law).
Before our friends and allies turn their backs on us, they need to turn in the transfer situations where the rules already apply, and the undue influence (recruiting) they can document. They need to give the system a chance to work to the full extent of its potential. We should not make tougher rules if schools fail to utilize the rules they already have.
Adopting rules is usually easy for the organization. Applying rules is often much harder for the schools.

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.