A Pitcher’s Prescription

August 3, 2015

One of our community’s local heroes who has really lived up to his hype is John Smoltz, a three-sport standout in high school who was recently inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Michigan’s climate and Smoltz’s passion for other sports than baseball kept him from throwing so much, so early and so often that he was able to bring a lively arm into the major leagues. Nevertheless, he needed “Tommy John” surgery to repair damage to his arm, like an increasing number of baseball pitchers today.

Smoltz, who had his surgery in 2000, told USA Today recently: “We’ve asked kids to do too much, too early, and at a high velocity at a young age, and you’re just not able to handle that over time. It’s like RPM-ing your car. If you redline it enough, you’re going to blow your engine.”

The new Hall of Famer is using this high-profile platform to ask parents to stop their kids from playing year-round baseball. Like famed orthopedist James Andrews, Smoltz is recommending players take a vacation from baseball for two to four months every year.

So, those non-school fall baseball leagues we’re now seeing crop up for high school age players? After a spring and summer of ball, most high school players probably need a rest from baseball and would benefit much more from playing a school-sponsored sport in the autumn: cross country, football, soccer, tennis.

Developing skills in other sports and camaraderie with other students is a healthier prescription than year-round baseball.

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.