Not the Critic

February 22, 2014

It is predictable; and it’s petty, not profound. Almost without exception, when a rule is enforced in one situation, the MHSAA will be criticized for not pursuing a similar penalty in other cases.

Of course, the critic is apt to draw parallels where they don’t exist. The critic is likely to assume facts that are not correct, and likely to call for the MHSAA to apply rules that the critic misunderstands, and to assess penalties that are in no one’s authority to impose. The critic can be unbothered by truth, accuracy and accountability. We cannot.

To be honest, MHSAA staff members have often been frustrated that the rules as they are written have no way to stop a particular transfer, or that people will not give testimony to enable a finding of undue influence. The reality is that rules cannot be written to stop everything bad without interfering with very much that is not bad.

And it is equally true that many people who have condemning information do not have the courage to share that information. And that some school administrators are too busy to get involved in such messiness. And that other school administrators are only too happy to have a malcontent athlete or parent move to another school.

Even at risk of irritating member school colleagues, the MHSAA ignores no allegations of violations by its member schools, their personnel or their students, even though we know that very many will be without merit – sometimes an innocent misunderstanding, other times a personal vendetta. And we know there may be just as many situations going unnoticed by or unreported to MHSAA staff.

And we also know that even when we do our job and we get it right – which is almost all the time – we may still be criticized by those who either have a personal agenda or do not have all the facts.

What is also true but unknown to the critic is the frequency with which MHSAA staff works proactively with schools to avoid problems, and how often MHSAA staff works privately with schools which self-report and quickly penalize their own constituents. A high percentage of violations have little publicity because we are intentional in efforts to keep a low profile for the unsavory side of educational athletics, and to keep the spotlight on the achievements of young people.

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.