Remarkable Student-Athletes

May 8, 2015

Every spring I have the privilege and pleasure of participating in several league or local school events that acknowledge and reward the careers of student-athletes who distinguished themselves as multiple-sport participants with very high academic grade point averages. One of those events this year was the 2015 Senior Athlete Recognition Ceremony of the Capital Area Activities Conference. It was remarkable in several ways.
It was my fourth time in attendance at the event, which started when the league was smaller and simply called the Capital Area Conference. I was the speaker at one of its first recognition ceremonies. In later years I attended as our first son, and then our second, were among the evening’s honorees. But I found the 2015 CAAC event remarkable in two other and more important ways.
First, as the Master of Ceremonies Tim Staudt read off the intended college majors of the 200 honorees (10 per school), I noticed that not one of the students had declared the intention of being an English major, which was my college major and to which I credit much of the pleasure I’ve enjoyed as a human being and the success I’ve experienced as an administrator of school sports. I’m hoping some of these 200 of the CAAC’s best and brightest – a truly impressive group – will decide or even just stumble into an English major – a place to learn how to think and to communicate.
The second remarkable feature of this remarkable group of 200 was that the number of boys almost equaled the number of girls. This almost never happens, and that has always concerned me – that boys settle for athletic achievement alone while girls strive to achieve in athletics, academics, activities and much more of what a comprehensive education has to offer.
It is extremely important to the future of our society that we demand much more of boys than we are getting. If we expect them to be productive in life and to be good citizens, husbands and fathers, boys need to learn in high school that “settling” is not sufficient and that a life which revolves around sports alone is a life that will be disappointing.

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.