Over Our Heads

June 29, 2012

In last month’s Wired magazine, Vint Cerf of Google cites American computer scientist Alan Kay’s comment, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Wired’s Thomas Goetz writes, “Too much of the technology world is trying to build clever solutions to picayune problems.”  (A quick look at the more than 1.2 million mobile phone applications available free or for sale in our world today – growing by 2,500 per day – makes the observation abundantly clear that many great minds are being wasted on the mundane, silly apps that do nothing to improve the quality of life for humankind.)

Goetz would have these talents aimed at much higher order needs of society.  “These times especially call for more than mere incrementalism.  Let’s demand that our leaders get in over their heads, that they remain a little bit naïve about what they’re getting into.”

And what might “going beyond incrementalism” look like for us in school sports?  Well, on just one topic – health and safety – it might mean, as provocative samples to stimulate bigger and better ideas:

      • Restricting kickoff returns, punt returns and interception returns in football – the three most dangerous times for players.
      • Reducing heading of the ball in soccer to reduce the effects of repeated blows to the brain.

      • Requiring all head coaches to complete CPR training, and requiring all coaches on all levels to complete an online coaching fundamentals course within their first two years of coaching.

      • Presenting an AED with every MHSAA tournament trophy – District, Regional and Final, for both champion and runner-up – during each of the next four years.

In any event, we need to avoid the distraction of meaningless matters and fix our focus on larger issues, and risk raising ideas and making changes that could have more lasting impact than incremental changes.  Just talking about these things begins to send messages that improve school sports.  Doing some things like them would actually invent our future.

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.