Playing Time: Paying It Forward

February 23, 2018

(What follows is an excerpt from an article by Jon Solomon of the Aspen Institute. Find the full article here.

There’s a time to sort the weak from the strong in sports. It’s not before kids grow into their bodies, minds and true interests.

Through age 12, at least, the Aspen Institute’s Project Play recommends that sports programs invest in every kid equally. That includes playing time – a valuable developmental tool that too many coaches assign based on player skill level and the score of the game. You will see this recommendation reflected in our Parent Checklists and companion videos.

The argument is simple for equal playing time: Research shows that what kids want out of a sports experience is both action and access to the action. Getting stuck at the end of the bench does not foster participation. And we all know greater participation is sorely needed in youth sports. Only 37 percent of kids ages 6 to 12 regularly played team sports in 2016, down from 45 percent in 2008, according to data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association in the Aspen Institute’s State of Play 2017 report

Kids who quit sports often do so because of lack of playing time, which can be a result of lack of confidence. Confidence is a byproduct of proper preparation and adults who believe in the players, according to IMG Academy Head of Leadership Development James Leath

“From a small child to the world’s greatest athlete, those who are confident are confident because they have taken thousands of shots, tried and failed many times, then tried again and got it right,” Leath said.

Playing time shouldn’t be earned at younger ages. It should be paid forward to develop a future athlete.

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.