December 4, 2012

“Overengineering” is anathema to most product manufacturers. Generally, manufacturers desire to put no more time and money into a product than is necessary. They decide upon a reasonable lifespan for a product, and then they use materials and parts that, with rare exception, have been proven to last that long.  They do not care to produce a product that lasts longer than the consumer desires; they do not want to invest resources where they won’t see a return.

An exception to this general rule is invoked by those manufacturing products which, if they break, will kill or maim people.  Airplanes are the classic example:  they’re built with multiple redundancies and with materials and parts that have been tested to last much longer than necessary. The potential for catastrophic loss of life demands this. They will use a part that’s tested to last 20 years, and replace it after ten years just to be safe.

I suspect that some observers of the MHSAA’s recent campaign to increase sports safety training for coaches and modify playing rules that may endanger participants are critical that we’re asking too much, that we’re doing more than is necessary. But frankly, that’s exactly what we intend.  When it comes to participant safety, overengineering of policies and procedures ought to be our goal.

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.