One Thing

March 11, 2016

One of Michigan’s finest athletic directors is Plainwell’s Dave Price, who recently encouraged me with a school newspaper article about a student who epitomizes school sports, Plainwell High School senior Jessica Nyberg. She participates for the Trojans in swimming & diving, basketball and soccer.

Trojan Torch staff writer Jordan Raglon featured Jessica in an article on Feb. 17, citing how much teammates and coaches value her companionship and leadership. The author cited her accomplishments in all three sports, but what caught my attention was this statement by Jessica: “If there was one thing sports has taught me, it’s that everyone matters.”

I can’t think of a better theme for school sports, or a better mission for educational athletics.

At its best, school sports teaches that teamwork works. That substitutes who practice with peak performance push the starters to even higher levels of performance, and turn some starters into stars.

At its best, school sports finds room for every student, regardless of ability or disability, to be a part of the team so long as the student meets the standards of eligibility, decorum, discipline and dedication the school and team demand.

At its best, school sports understands that “everyone matters” means that no student is above the rules, and that failure to apply rules to one student devalues other students who have complied with the rules.

With the attitude that “everyone matters,” teams tend to come together, discrimination tends to end, and fair play advances.

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.