Reunion Reflections

July 23, 2015

Summer is a popular time for high school reunions, and those reunions are a popular time for reliving the accomplishments of high school sports teams of many years ago. Because I played on a winless football team during my junior year of high school, I don’t always take pleasure in such conversations.
However, I have the greatest discomfort when I sense that those reveling in past glory may have peaked in high school. There can be nothing worse, for them or for society.
While on-the-field or court exploits may become exaggerated over time, we may underestimate the intangible benefits that high school sports participation has provided.
Last month the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies published new research that links varsity high school athletic participation to future leadership. It suggests that such participation may (it’s not certain) nurture adults who have more self-confidence and self-respect, which are (certainly) linked to leadership.
The research also suggests a link to improved work habits as an employee and to greater philanthropy.
The researcher is Kevin Kniffin of Cornell University who continues to contribute plain talk and practical ideas to the role of extracurricular activities in secondary school education.
This type of research, and the tsunami of F-1 and J-1 visa students from Asian countries for the well-rounded “western” style education, should add to the dissuasion of those who suggest we jettison these “distractions” from junior high/middle schools and high schools.
While some “high school heroes” never were as great as they now think they were, the programs they engaged in may be even greater.

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.