No Returns or Refunds

January 18, 2013

The “Boxing Day” tradition of New Zealand, like most of the current or former British Empire, is to return to stores on the day after Christmas the unwanted or ill-fitting gifts of Christmas. My wife and I exchanged no gifts this year, except for the gift of time with each other and our China-based son and his wife in New Zealand. So we had nothing to return, and we’ve had moments to savor.

Outside our window on Christmas Day was an extinct volcano rising 758 feet above New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty coast.  Its peak was hidden in clouds sent by the remnants of Cyclone Evan.  We couldn’t see the top of Mt. Maunganui; but our fragment of the Roberts family who had gathered for this holiday, below the equator and on the other side of the International Dateline, decided on a “Christmas climb” anyway.

Attempting a challenge whose goal is shrouded in uncertainty is an every-season experience of coaches, which may be the opiate that draws so many men and women to that vocation for so long, and consumes coaches so far beyond what are reasonable hours for most other occupations.

Even in the more mundane existence of a state high school association administrator, it is the unknown of each year, week and day that energizes the grind.  How boring it would be to know what’s at the end of each climb. How exciting it can be to come to a problem-solving table with good ideas and also with the expectation that the best ideas will come out of collaboration with others’ good ideas.

I count myself among the fortunate folks who, at the end of most days and weeks and years, do not feel inclined to want to return the gifts that each has brought.  And I’m still attracted to the discovery of what the next cloud-shrouded climb may reveal.

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.