The One Thing

June 17, 2016

“If funding were not an issue, what’s the one thing you would do at the MHSAA?”

That’s the question posed late last month by a candidate for employment at the MHSAA; and I answered without any hesitancy.

I would require and pay for both initial and continuing education of all coaches, both high school and junior high/middle school, head coaches and assistants, paid and volunteer. It would occur mostly face to face, and it would be intentional in its conveyance of the meaning of educational athletics and the definition of success in school-sponsored sports.

The coach is the front line in the delivery of the core values of educational athletics and the immediate and lifetime benefits of school sports participation. More than any other person, coaches can change students’ lives and they can create a culture in their program that changes the attitudes of parents toward youth sports and the attitudes of spectators toward officials.

The well-trained coach, the purposefully trained coach, not only gives the student a better experience, that coach also gives parents a reality check and helps give officials a more sportsmanlike atmosphere in which to work. Well-trained coaches enhance almost every aspect of the school sports experience – improving participant safety and promoting a lifetime of healthy habits; teaching and demanding good sportsmanship that evolves toward good citizenship; promoting teamwork, hard work, fair play, respect for rules and others.

Delivering with purpose and passion initial and ongoing education that is research-based, student-focused and required of all interscholastic coaches, is best for kids and for the future of school sports in Michigan. And it would contribute mightily to the quality of our schools and communities.

Over the past decade, approximately 20,000 individuals have completed one or more levels of the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program (CAP). The goal should be 20,000 coaches through multiple levels of CAP each year. That’s the one thing the MHSAA should do.

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.