Prime the Pump

July 24, 2017

Even the awkward or aggravating moments in life – perhaps especially those moments – have the redeeming value of offering metaphors for these messages. Times like this ...

Country dwellers and cottage owners know that the pump which brings water to their residences is a precious apparatus. When it works, it’s taken for granted; when it fails to work, it ruins almost everything planned.

So it’s prudent for those who don’t live on a community water line to know how to prime their own water pump; and some of us have had to learn the hard way to keep jugs of water on hand to prime the pump. As my local well expert told me, “You can’t prime the pump with water that’s already run down creek.”

That’s wisdom on many levels. It reminds us to have emergency plans. But more than that, it suggests we should take advantage of opportunities as they arise, not try to do so after they’ve passed by. It suggests boldness ... a degree of aggressiveness.

In our current situation, it suggests that we assess what is trending, but not take forever to do so; and seize the day in order to shape the future.

This is when I think, for example, of conducting regional junior high/middle school meets and tournaments across Michigan and 7-on-7 football leagues in the summer. When I think of mandating MHSAA camps for officials during their first three to five years of registration. When I think of adding a co-ed Ryder Cup format to the MHSAA Golf Tournament and a co-ed team tennis format to the MHSAA Tennis Tournament. When I think of adding flag football for girls, volleyball for boys and both water polo and weightlifting for both genders. This is when I want to take a chance with the exploding e-sports world, and the emotional tug of Special Olympics unified sports.

I have zero motivation for increasing the number of contests or the distance of travel for high school athletics, but I get very excited when I think of expanding the number of students who might get engaged if we would prime the pump before the water runs away from us.

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.