No Super-Sizing Needed

March 23, 2013

Airline travel today presents a confusing array of frequent flyer and credit card loyalty programs:  Premier Access; Silver, Gold or Platinum Elite; etc.  They allow a traveler to check bags without cost, visit airline club rooms free of charge, and board planes ahead of the rest of the herd.

The problem is that the airlines have established so many levels of elitism that the result is a confusing, meaningless mess.  Which reminds me of other efforts to distinguish good, better and best, especially in youth sports.

In basketball, ice hockey, soccer, volleyball and other youth sports there are now so many programs that promote themselves as more elite than others, and so many tournaments that advertise themselves to be above others in terms of status or the presence of college recruiters, that the efforts to distinguish themselves are not at all meaningful, and almost laughable if they were not fooling and fleecing so many children and parents.

In contrast, school sports is not engaged in the never-ending addiction to add layers of competitions and levels of championships.  We are just fine with league, district, regional and statewide tournaments and trophies.  We do not need national-scope tournaments and all-star events.

In school sports, the titles don’t need super-sizing, and the trophies don’t need to be taller than the participants.

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.