Seal of Approval

February 12, 2016

“Sanction” is an interesting word. Sometimes it is used in a negative way, as in penalties, like the U.S. trade embargoes recently lifted on Iran and Cuba. Other times, to sanction something is to endorse it or at least approve its existence.

It is in this second, more positive sense that school sports uses the word “sanction” with respect to athletic events. And with respect to interstate meets and contests, the MHSAA adheres to the Sanctioning Bylaws of the national organization to which it belongs, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Without getting into the policies and procedures, here is what the NFHS says about the philosophy of sanctioning interstate athletic events:

Interscholastic programs should serve educational goals. To this end, schools have an obligation to conduct certain threshold inquiries about events in which their students may participate. On occasion, additional inquiries and oversight may be appropriate at the conference, district, state or national levels. In order to perform their “inquiry and oversight” functions fairly and efficiently, decision-makers at various levels have developed sanctioning procedures. The specific purposes served by event-sanctioning procedures include the following:

1) Sanctioning enhances the likelihood that events will adhere to sound and detailed criteria which meet the specific requirements of a school or a group of schools based upon experience and tradition.

2) Sanctioning serves to promote sound regulation of the conditions under which students and teams may compete.

3) Sanctioning is a means of encouraging well-managed competition.

4) Sanctioning adds an element of “due diligence” that encourages compliance with state association rules and regulations.

5) Sanctioning protects the welfare of student-athletes.

6) Sanctioning protects the existing programs sponsored by member schools and thereby promotes the opportunity for larger numbers of student-athletes to gain the benefits of interscholastic competition.

7) Sanctioning helps reduce the abuses of excessive competition.

8) Sanctioning promotes uniformity in obtaining approval for events.

9) Sanctioning helps protect students from exploitation.

Interstate event sanctioning at the NFHS level promotes financial transparency and equivalency of treatment of participating high schools. NFHS sanctioning forms are available on the NFHS website (

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.