Secret Weapon

October 25, 2016

The rapid rate of turnover in the ranks of local school sports leadership might suggest a program that is in disarray and has lost its way. But that’s not the case most of the time in most of our schools, which operate with a North Star sense of direction and regular recall of the core values of educational athletics. This is because school sports has a secret weapon.

In schools across this state there are coaches and administrators whose lifetime profession and passion has been school sports. People who chose to stick with sports when there were other opportunities in education with more regular, less demanding hours. People who chose to stay at the secondary school level when there were opportunities at higher levels. These folks are sold out for school sports, and they are the secret weapon of school sports.

For these people, school sports has been the life-affirming, life-shaping, sometimes even life-saving business of educational athletics.

For these people, school sports has been a calling, nearly a mission, not quite a crusade.

For these people, everything they do is connected, is intentional, is purposeful.

When these people conduct a coach or parent meeting, or a pep assembly or a postseason awards night, they know why they are doing so.

When these people coordinate homecoming week festivities or create their school’s student-athlete advisory council or its Hall of Fame, they know why they are doing so.

It’s because they know interscholastic athletic programs are good for students, schools and society in ways that other youth sports programs can’t come close to matching.

The why of their work guides them and drives them. It gives meaning and motivation to their days. It assures our success.

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.