Robust Benefits

February 6, 2015

Here are some research-based opinions that track with the personal experiences of most of us who have given our careers to educational athletics. The words are those of Kevin Kniffen, who teaches leadership and management at Cornell University (from [Oct. 22, 2014]):

“Research shows that people who play high school sports get better jobs, with better pay. Benefits that last a lifetime.

“Those lessons presumably help to account for the findings that people who played for a varsity high school team tend to earn relatively higher salaries later in life. Research to which I contributed, complementing previous studies, showed that people who played high school sports tend to get better jobs, with better pay, and that those benefits last a lifetime.

“Hiring managers expect former student-athletes (compared with people who participate in other popular extracurriculars) to have more self-confidence, self-respect and leadership; actual measures of behavior in a sample of people who had graduated from high school more than five decades earlier showed those expectations proved accurate.

“We also found that former student-athletes tend to donate time and money more frequently than people who weren't part of teams.

“In other words, there are clear and robust individual and societal benefits that appear to be generated through the current system of school support for participation in competitive youth athletics.

“With respect to whether youth athletics should be part of educational institutions, it’s certainly true that there’s no necessary relationship between the two; but, what would happen if schools were to drop all of their interscholastic sports programs?

“Any policymakers who took such action would effectively be privatizing – and, in turn, limiting – an important set of opportunities that schools presently provide in a significantly more democratic and open fashion than likely alternatives would. Beyond raising a basic barrier for anyone to gain the kinds of experiences that appear to be rewarded in the workplace, the privatization of competitive youth sports would also create the largest barriers – and cause the greatest long-term losses – for those whose families are not able to bear the costs of participation outside of the public school system.”

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.