April 13, 2012

“People are persuaded by relationships more than reasons.”

That’s the one statement I remember from a radio interview I was inattentively listening to during a recent long drive.  I don’t remember the topic, the speaker, the interviewer or the radio station; but that single statement soaked further into my soul as the miles passed by.

I began to think of many instances when I gave the benefit of the doubt to a person I knew well.  And the times when both sides of a debate had merit but I decided in favor of the source I knew better and trusted more.  Relationships.

I thought of my own failures to direct a change or defend the status quo because I depended solely on solid rationale and disregarded the biases and baggage of those I needed to influence.  When I didn’t take time to cultivate allies because I was so certain that the idea itself was powerful enough to carry the day.  When my confidence that “what was right” would ultimately prevail, but it did not.  Relationships.

Twice during the past four months we have seen a preview of how, more frequently in the future, people will attempt to influence decision making in school sports without building genuine relationships.  Once as a first strategy, and once as a last resort, a constituent of our state utilized the World Wide Web to generate support for a policy change.

In each case an online petition was initiated that generated, from across the nation and around the world, a large number of emails, many of which were vulgar, profane or ridiculous, triggering all email to the MHSAA through that website to be filtered as spam, never to be seen by the decision-makers.  This approach is the antithesis of effective persuasion.

No organization of substance should be swayed by bored souls surfing the web who, by mere chance, stumble across an issue and then ring in, without real knowledge of that issue, and no real stake in its outcome.

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.