The Rules We Use

February 9, 2016

The MHSAA Handbook of 90 years ago consisted of merely 21 pages, a diminutive 3½ x 6 inches in size.

The proposals for just the changes in the Handbook for 2016-17 require almost as many words as the entire Handbook of 1925-26.

The Handbook has grown to 130 full-sized, 8½ x 11-inch pages not just because we serve more sports and students than 90 years ago. It also grows because life is much more complicated. Society, schools and sports have much broader concerns today.

Every policy described in the current Handbook got there as a response to people wanting more rules or recommendations – sometimes to treat students better and other times to promote competitive equity, both of which are worthy objectives and should continue to be the rationale for proposals.

Occasionally I hear my colleagues in other states say we need to modernize our rules, to be sure we are not trying to apply 20th century rules to 21st century problems. I don’t disagree with that populist refrain.

However, before any rule is removed, those in charge must ask and answer: “How will school sports look without this rule? Will the problem this rule was created to solve return if we remove the rule? Will doing so create even worse problems?”

Rarely has the adoption of a new rule by our organization been a mistake. I cannot say the same for the removal of rules.

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.