School Sports Benefits

June 14, 2016

The May 2016 issue of Kappan features an article by an assistant professor at Texas A & M and a doctoral academy fellow at the University of Arkansas who argue in favor of school-sponsored sports. They cite benefits to students, schools and communities:

“Student-athletes generally do better in school than other students – not worse. Opening high school sports to girls in the 1970s led to a significant and meaningful improvement in female college-going and workforce participation. Tougher academic eligibility requirements that schools place on athletes have decreased dropout rates among at-risk students.

“Schools that cut sports will likely lose the benefits that school-sponsored sports bestow. Removing these activities from K-12 education would likely have negative effects on historically underserved school communities. As was the case with the Great Depression, less-privileged families would be less able to afford the expense of having their children participate in organized sports due to the cost of travel and registration fees of club organizations.

“We do not contend that school-sponsored athletics are perfect and should be preserved exactly as they are, even in the face of financial constraints. In tough financial times, everything should be scrutinized. Sports are no exception. But when we look at the larger body of evidence, we find that sports are a tradition in U.S. education that has genuinely benefited students and their school communities.”

One by one the article (with the unfortunate title “History and evidence show school sports help students win”) disposes of typical arguments against school sports:

  1. That sports participation has no role in academic development and may undermine it.

  2. That European-style club programs would enable adolescents to participate in sports while eliminating negative influences that school sports have on academics.

  3. That eliminating school-sponsored sports will increase student participation in other extracurricular activities.

The evidence, according to the authors, does not support those arguments. Click here to read the article.

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.