One-Case Causes

August 27, 2013

One of the characteristics I look for in leaders is the ability and courage to ignore certain problems. To not get worked up about every little thing and even some bigger things. To stay focused on long-term goals and objectives in the midst of fad and frenzy. To distinguish the merely hot topics from the much more important topics.

“One-care causes” – projects or campaigns launched to address an isolated incident, even of high profile – can drain the resources and distract an organization from the larger and longer lasting issues that demand even more attention than we may be devoting to them.

We must not confuse one incident with a trend. We shouldn’t assume that an isolated situation demands an immediate solution, or that every single problem needs a top-down, systemic remedy.

Sometimes a problem – ineligibility, forfeit, unsportsmanlike act – really is limited to a particular student or school, or confined to a single coach, contest or community. And in those situations, leadership means leaving them alone and letting the matter be handled by people closer to those situations.

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.