Our End of the Pool

June 26, 2012

The six-year veteran CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, told Fortune magazine’s Geoff Colvin in a June feature, “Courage in leadership is very difficult, especially in today’s world, where the media doesn’t take time to really understand you.”

We can relate to this in our work in school sports, as very many veteran sports journalists and broadcasters have retired or been downsized, replaced by staff who are fewer in number and relationships and weaker in institutional knowledge and professionalism.

Whenever I read, watch or hear news accounts concerning topics that involve our work and about which I know a lot, I can see how incomplete and inaccurate the reporting is.  This has always been true, but now is much more obvious; and this has made me even more skeptical when I read through other topics about which I know less.  How much of this is opinion, not fact?  What facts are incompletely presented?  What “facts” are just plain wrong?

In this environment, it’s risky for leaders to step out with new initiatives; and it’s even riskier to defend the status quo, for the establishment is routinely presumed to be wrong by media who now often lack subject-matter depth and historical perspective.

Still, it remains the leader’s role, according to Jim Collins in Great by Choice, to not just predict the future, but to go out and create it anyway – in spite of criticism by media who have little experience swimming in our subject matter and who are merely wading into the shallow end of our deep pool.  Sometimes creating the future means doing something new and different; but just as often – perhaps even more so – it means defending something whose existence helps to maintain the very essence of educational athletics.

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.