Pay to Play

July 28, 2015

Our local newspaper recently reported that a group of 8-year-olds had qualified for a national 3-on-3 soccer tournament July 31 to Aug. 2 at a theme park resort in Florida; but the report said the team had to raise $5,000 for the privilege.
Without knowing it at the time, the players and coaches qualified on the basis of a second-place finish at a tournament last August in Hastings, Michigan. Really? Second place? Last year?
Let’s be frank. The basis for qualifying for this national event in Florida was not a runner-up finish in a tournament for 7-year-olds the previous summer in a small town in Michigan. The basis for qualifying was the ability to raise $5,000 so the resort could fill its hotel rooms and sell tickets to its theme parks.
National tournament? Baloney. If you can pay, then you can play. Sell this as an expensive family trip, perhaps; but as a national tournament, it has zero integrity.
This kind of hype and hypocrisy adds to the challenges of administering sane and sensible school sports. Neither 8- nor 18-year-olds need national tournaments. There’s a lot more bang for the buck in our own backyards.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on 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.