Representative Governance

November 11, 2014

A man in a hot air balloon, realizing he was lost, lowered the balloon to shout to a fellow on the ground: “The wind’s blown me off course. Can you tell me where I am?” 

The man on the ground replied, “Sure. You’re hovering about 90 feet over this wheat field.” 

The balloonist yelled, “You must be an engineer.”

“I am,” the man replied. “How did you know?” 

“Well, everything you told me is technically correct but of absolutely no use.” 

The engineer retorted, “You’re an executive, right?” 

“How did you know?” the balloonist responded. 

“Well, you were drifting in no particular direction before you asked for my help, and you’re still lost; but now it’s my fault.”

In addition to making me chuckle, that story reminds me that the world is very likely a much richer place when it has both bird’s-eye and on-the-ground perspectives. It is certainly true that our understanding of issues and answers in school sport is better when both views are voiced.

This reasoning is the basis for inviting any representative of a member school to serve on the MHSAA’s governing body, the Representative Council. Unlike many other states, seats at the MHSAA’s table are not limited to superintendents or to principals.

Throughout most of the MHSAA’s history, there has been a nearly equal balance of superintendents, principals, athletic directors and others on the 19-member Representative Council. However, in recent years the balance has shifted decidedly toward athletic directors, as superintendents have become increasingly occupied with keeping school districts afloat financially and principals are increasingly consumed with demonstrating improving student test scores.

The MHSAA’s Constitution provides for an election system that assures good diversity of school size and location on the Representative Council. The Constitution also provides for an appointment process that is intended to improve gender and minority membership on the Council. That provision is also being used to recruit superintendents and principals back to our table. We need policymakers who see things with a wide angle view as much as we need policymakers who see the daily details of school sports up close.

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.