Reality Check

July 29, 2016

In Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, “all the children are above average.” The greater fiction is that most parents believe their children are way above average, especially when it comes to sports. On that topic most parents are badly in need of a reality check.

A colleague at the MHSAA showed me a letter from the CEO of the Amateur Athletic Union to my colleague’s eight-year-old daughter announcing that she had been selected for a national publication that would identify the brightest future stars of women’s basketball, for a fee of course. A scam certainly; but how many other people might be taken in by this, or contribute to it “just in case” because they wouldn’t want to do anything to discourage their child’s ascension to stardom?

The MHSAA’s Task Force on Multi-Sport Participation has identified delusional parents as one of the greatest contributors to athletic specialization that is too early and intense, forcing some children out of sports too soon and leading them toward a life of inactivity and obesity, while leading the chosen youth toward overuse injuries that can be equally damaging to adult fitness.

This task force is developing strategies to help inform parents of elementary children that their children will almost certainly not participate in either college or professional sports but, with adequate attention to physical fitness, nutrition and sports sampling, most children can be involved in interscholastic athletics and remain active and fit for life after high school.

Among several task force strategies are a “Reality Check” video for parent meetings and printed pieces on “What Parents Should Know” with units by medical personnel, physical educators and coaches.

These efforts won’t change the world. They are, however, a small part of what we can do, have an obligation to do and will do to promote the health and safety of this and the next generation of young people.

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.