Our Drop in the Ocean

December 18, 2015

It has been difficult, recently, for us to get too worked up over the complaints submitted to this office about officials’ calls, coaches’ decisions, students’ ineligibilities and tournament times and venues. All of this seems petty in light of the terrorism in Paris and other places, and the worldwide refugee crisis as innocent people flee from atrocities in their homelands.

Try to imagine the pain in Paris and other places of recent mass execution. Try to imagine the horror that refugees have faced in their native countries and their ongoing agony in the camps that contain them for years while more “civilized” nations struggle politically and economically with decisions that define their humanity.

But now, as often before, we remind ourselves that the job we are paid to do requires our focused attention and best efforts as we try to make our small niche in the world of sports – our drop of water in the ocean of the world’s concerns – a little bit better each day.

And also now, as often before, we try to interpret how the worldwide human condition affects us and might be affected by us. Affects us, for example, with the need to improve tournament venue security. Is affected by us, for example, by delivering programs that help create in young athletes those qualities that will make them good citizens of their future world – adults who are respectful, tolerant and compassionate.

When I traveled in Northern Africa recently, I encountered immense admiration for the United States – what our hosts always referred to as “America.” People elsewhere look past the shallow or spiteful political rhetoric of our so-called leaders and candidates for leadership to see a disciplined freedom exercised by the citizens of our country that is still, in spite of our shortcomings, the world’s best hope for peace and prosperity.

This country is unique in the world. And school-sponsored sports exist in this country like no other place on earth. There just might be a connection. Which is why – even when the world’s problems seem too large for us to impact – by doing our best every day to deliver these programs, we actually may be performing a vital role.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.