The Old Is New Again

October 23, 2015

In the hidden back reaches of my closet at home I’ve kept some ties, suits and pants I have not worn for many years, forgotten as I purchased or was given newer and more fashionable clothes. Needing space, and heeding my wife’s suggestion that it was time to donate what I never wear, I gave my wife a fashion show of my long-neglected wardrobe. I wanted her help to decide what to discard.

Some of the items I modeled brought back memories of happy times, like weddings and reunions; others of sadder times, like funerals. Some items were laughably out of style. But, surprisingly, some of the oldest items looked the best ... almost as good as the most recent additions to my wardrobe. They were, in fact, back in fashion.

This caused me to recall that some of the discarded policies of educational athletics are working their way back in fashion.  For example …

  • For many years, even after many states changed their rules, the MHSAA was criticized for prohibiting member schools’ students from wearing full equipment at and participating in the full-contact summer football camps of universities and commercial organizations. Now, with greater attention to improving acclimatization and reducing head contact in football, other states are returning to the policies we never discarded: contact-free out-of-season football camps and clinics.
  • Equally “dishonored” by those who believe there is never too much of a good thing have been MHSAA rules that limit the number of contests and the distance of travel. After years of more and more of everything, the new normal of severely limited school sports budgets makes our modest schedules more virtuous than ever.
  • For many years, MHSAA policy has stood apart from most states by limiting students to competing in only one level of a sport in a single day … no JV and varsity in the same day, no fifth or sixth quarter rule. Now, with even greater attention to reducing head and overuse injuries and other student health and safety issues, our rules look both protective and progressive, not overly restrictive.

If a man waits long enough, even his narrowest tie or widest lapel will be back in fashion; so what makes me cling to old clothes also makes me think twice about changing established rules. It is just as difficult to restore a discarded rule as it is to wear a discarded jacket.

It’s always easier to relax a policy than to restore it when we rediscover we need it.

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.