Risk Taking

February 14, 2012

The June 22, 2009 cover story of Business Week which I just reread was titled “The Risk Takers.”  It featured businesses which during difficult times, instead of playing it safe, placed bets on some gutsy new strategies.

To make a point, the author used an illustration that we can relate to here in Michigan.  I paraphrase:

Imagine a driver on a snowy night.  If the car starts to slip, the driver’s natural instinct is to slam on the brakes and jerk the steering wheel in the opposite direction.  But the laws of physics advise the opposite:  laying off the brakes and steering into the turn.

The author reports that from 1985 to 2000, the average merger in an economic downturn created an 8.5 percent rise in shareholder value after two years; while the average deal in good times resulted in a 6.2 percent drop in the buyer’s share value.  In other words, mergers – one of the biggest, boldest moves in business – do better in bad times than good.  Much better, in fact.

It wasn’t recklessness this article was celebrating; it was risk taking – daring to be aggressive, rather than just defensive, amid a weak economy. Steering into the turn, so to speak.

Just like the winter driving analogy in the article, we who are involved in school sports in Michigan can relate to the big idea of the article because we too made some of our biggest moves at our bleakest times. The MHSAA retrenched in some ways, but the greater theme as we climbed out of our bad times of 2008 was that we made unprecedented investments in new technology.

Today MHSAA.com is the website of highest traffic and MHSAA.tv is the website with the most productions of any comparable organization in the U.S.  And all of these investments in technology during those bad times have allowed us to undertake the ArbiterGame project now that will provide all member high schools the electronic tools necessary to make their tough tasks of school administration more streamlined than ever before.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.