Preserving A Place

September 18, 2012

Nearly 20 years ago I spoke with a parents group at an elementary school.  Most in attendance were parents of elementary students.  Most were moms.

During our discussion, the mothers pleaded with me – that’s not too strong a word – to help develop policies that would preserve a place on high school teams for their children.  “Just a jersey,” one mom said.  “Just a spot on the team.”

These parents were almost sick with worry that if their sons and daughters did not play one sport year-round, starting now, they wouldn’t make the team in high school. And they believed that not making the team would doom their children to absenteeism, drug use, pregnancy, and every evil known to youth.

They saw the high school program becoming a program for only elite athletes, only the specialists, with no room for their kids who would meet the standards of eligibility but lack the necessary athletic experience to make the team because they didn’t belong to a private club, go to all the right camps, or make a certain travel team in the third grade.

Did these parents overstate the problem?  Yes.  But there’s some validity in their worries.

Those moms gave me a goal, and later my own sons personalized that goal:  to work for that generation of high school students and the next to preserve a place in our programs for all students, regardless of athletic ability, who meet all the essential standards of eligibility, want to participate in more than one school sport and activity and embody the spirit of being a student first in educational athletics.

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.