Our Laboratory

June 30, 2014

Failure: Lab is a speaker-audience experience modeled after TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design); but unlike TED’s frequent focus on success stories, Failure: Lab showcases stories of failure – and it instructs speakers not to provide lessons learned. Figuring out those lessons is the role of the audience, not the presenters.

Of course, one of life’s most bountiful laboratories of failure is sports. At least 50 percent of the participants in any athletic contest do not win. Sometimes it’s just one competitor out of 10 or 100 or 1,000 who wins.

In MHSAA tournaments, all but one team in each class or division ends the season with a loss. In basketball this past winter, only four of 729 high schools that sponsored boys varsity basketball ended the season with a victory.

It’s a fact; sports is a failure lab.

In the spirit of Failure: Lab, I won’t offer a defense or an explanation of the lessons learned. You’re the audience; you figure it out. Why do we go to so much time and effort to create this laboratory?

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.