In Others’ Words

August 22, 2014

I’ve read and heard multiple times – so I’ve come to believe it’s at least partly true – that one of the techniques that marketing departments or agencies use when developing campaigns to promote a product or service is to look at it from the consumer’s, customer’s or client’s perspective.
The point is often brought home that if management would use this technique as much as marketers, then management would be more effective and would label itself, rather than marketers, as the “creative team.” It chafes me to hear a CEO say he or she wants to know what “creative” has to say about a sponsorship initiative before the CEO will offer an opinion.
Thinking about what our customers want doesn’t require that leaders suspend their personal beliefs or reverse experience-based opinions. It merely asks that we look at things from a different and sometimes even opposite point of view. And to be truly revealing, it asks that we try to put into words where other people stand on a particular topic.
It asks us to actually try to describe what our customers see from where they stand and what they say they want. For example, in our work, it would ask administrators to think about and actually describe what coaches want, and vice versa. And it asks both coaches and administrators to think about and put into their own words what student-athletes want, and what their parents want.

This has been an ongoing part of my life, provoked I suppose by my marriage of 42 years to a woman whose political views often point 180 degrees from my own. And this approach has been especially enlightening on school sports’ most troublesome topics, some of which we are tackling at this time, like ...

  • Out-of-season coaching rules
  • Junior high/middle school programming
  • Health and safety mandates

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.