July 9, 2018

(This blog first appeared on November 2, 2010)

Each summer I put together a list of all the problems we’re addressing and all the projects we know we’ll be working on through the MHSAA during the year ahead. It’s always a long list, and accomplishing just a few items would make any year a good year.

So, this requires that we try to decide between all that we might do and all that we must do. And here’s a reminder of one thing we must do.

When I ask school and community groups with whom I’m speaking about what they think the problems are in school sports, the most popular responses from these constituents are (1) too little funding, and (2) too many misdirected parents; or sometimes that order is reversed: over-involved parents and under-funded programs.

I like to caution people that in some situations, our students suffer from too little adult engagement in their lives and that, almost everywhere, interscholastic athletics benefit greatly from the time and energy parents and other adults volunteer to help local programs operate. But I get the point of what I’m hearing.

These and other responses I hear – serious as these cited problems can be – may merely be symptoms of the single, fundamental issue that’s at the heart of all the others. That’s perspective.

  • Too little money for schools and sports?

  • Perspective – spending money on less essential things.

  • Pressure-packed parents?

  • Perspective – people focusing on adults’ desires more than students’ needs.

  • Poor sportsmanship?

  • Perspective – forgetting or never learning the pure purpose of educational athletics.

  • Too much specialization?  Too much year-round competition?

  • Perspective again.

  • Too much talk of college athletic scholarships?

  • Perspective once again.

In essence, almost all issues arise from matters of perspective. At their root, almost all problems are problems of perspective.

What can we do about this?

I don’t have the perfect prescription; but one thing is certain: we can’t relegate this to an afterthought. We cannot hope to make time to address this problem each day; we must plan to make time for it each day.

We need to model a positive perspective. Point to it when we see it. Explain it. Reward it.

It can’t be left to others. We are the guardians of proper perspective. It’s Job 1.

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.