Reality Check

July 7, 2015

The organization I worked for immediately prior to this 29-year run with the MHSAA utilized “harnessed hero worship” as its principal strategy for evangelism. It was generally effective; but because of human frailties, some of the heroes would disappoint us and disrupt the important work.
This experience and others over the years have caused me to, at most, only feign excitement when someone suggests we get this or that “Big Name” to keynote a conference or endorse an initiative. I prefer substance over style, and staying power over shooting stars.
All of this likely made me susceptible to shouting “Right On” when I read the May 14, 2015 blog post of Matt Amaral, a teacher in California. The title: “Dear Steph Curry, Now That You Are MVP, Please Don’t Come Visit My High School.”
Regarding celebrity worship, Mr. Amaral writes that we need less of it.
“Coming to poor high schools like mine isn’t going to help any of these kids out; in fact, it might make things worse.”
Amaral explains that unlike Curry (who is an example and not a target), the students he teaches are not genetic giants and do not have the resources and support that separate the less than one percent from the rest of us. “What you won’t see,” Amaral writes in his “open letter” to Curry, “is the fact that most of these kids don’t have a back-up plan for their dream of being you.”
“They are already very good at dreaming about being rich and famous; what we need them to do is get a little more realistic about what is in their control. We need less of an emphasis on sports and celebrity in high school, because it is hurting these kids too much as it is.”
(You can find more of Mr. Amaral’s provocative thoughts at

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.