Plan B Planning

July 23, 2015

The odds of a boy having a career as a professional athlete are very small; and for a girl, the odds are infinitesimal. But that doesn’t make the pursuit of such a goal ridiculous.
First, there are good, healthy destinations shy of that goal that result in meaningful, satisfying sports-related careers ... coaching, athletic administration, sports broadcasting, sports medicine, officiating, for examples.
Second, dedication to such a goal can develop disciplines and habits that lead to a more productive life, regardless of the ultimate career path.
How ridiculous would it be in 1969 for a Canadian boy of nine to set the goal of becoming an astronaut? Canada didn’t even have a space program!
But that’s what Chris Hadfield did, and he discovered the goal provided direction to his life that was lacking before. He had a new lens for viewing life and his place in it.
In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (Little, Brown and Company, 2013), Colonel Hadfield writes: “Throughout all this I never felt that I’d be a failure in life if I didn’t get to space. Since the odds of becoming an astronaut were nonexistent, I knew it would be pretty silly to hang my sense of self-worth on it. My attitude was more, ‘It’s probably not going to happen, but I would do things that keep me moving in the right direction, just in case – and I should be sure those things interest me, so that whatever happens, I’m happy.’ ”
There is a commercial airing on television for an international real estate company that tells us to “dream with our eyes open.” That is good advice for youngsters who dream of playing sports at any higher level. Even if the dream is not realized – and it most likely will not be – the dream might help to produce life skills for a rewarding “Plan B.”

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.