Rocket Science

January 5, 2015

I have always been fascinated by space exploration and in awe of all that is required and must go right to send a space vehicle atop a multi-stage booster rocket from a moving object like Earth, and land it softly on another moving object like the moon or Mars or most recently a massive rock, after a journey of many months and millions of miles. How can people figure that stuff out?
There cannot be a problem of school sports that is more complicated than those of space exploration, except for one feature – which is that our problems deal with people, who are far less predictable and dependable than the laws of physics.
Making matters worse is that we are working with people in a competitive arena, and in an emotional setting, where the objectivity which characterizes the scientific method of rocket scientists is generally if not universally absent.
As long as potential problem-solvers view potential solutions through the lens of what does or does not benefit them in terms of competitive edge, our efforts to make good changes will never launch or, if launched, will miss the target.

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.