Not So Great

February 7, 2017

The Michigan High School Athletic Association leadership can sometimes be like the leadership of the United States of America. We can boast a bit too boldly about how great we are.

That's why a trip to Europe, most recently for me to the country of Spain, can be a humbling reminder that no matter how good we may seem to be regarding some things, there is very much room for improvement on others.

The USA is a leader in many ways, but a distant laggard when it comes to community place-making and the quality of our roads and bridges and mass transportation systems. The USA is embarrassingly behind the needs and times in these important ways of improving life for millions of its citizens.

This obvious observation begs for consideration of ways and means the MHSAA may lag behind its counterpart organizations in serving and supporting school-sponsored sports. And these are the two most obvious observations: 

We trail the nation's most progressive states with respect to requirements to coach and a few other most progressive states with respect to requirements to officiate.  

It was no huge surprise that the 2016 MHSAA Update Meeting Opinion Poll demonstrated that attendees were more supportive of proposals to change those rules than any other policies or procedures of the organization.

The most popular proposal surveyed was a requirement that high school coaches who are disqualified from a contest more than once in a season must complete a free online sportsmanship course before they may return to coaching ... 94 percent of 602 respondents favored that policy.

The second most popular proposal surveyed would require all head coaches at the junior high/middle school level to have a valid (current) certification in CPR (same as the rule for high schools) ... 80 percent of 593 respondents favored that.

And the third most popular proposal surveyed would require an MHSAA registered official to attend an MHSAA-conducted or approved camp or clinic (three-hour minimum duration) during the first three years before that official may renew registration for a fourth year ... 75 percent of 601 respondents were in favor.

There are some obvious flaws in these requirements as stated on the Opinion Poll, and the respondents tend to come from larger schools and under-represent the opinion of small school administrators; but the responses of constituents are valuable nevertheless because they indicate a general direction that respondents believe is necessary to improve school sports, or at least to keep pace with the changing needs.

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.