Seeing the Whole Field

September 20, 2013

I spent almost all of my days as a competitive athlete in a position where all the other players were in my field of vision.

From the age of 10 until I gave up baseball at 20, I was a catcher. I spent my entire career in foul territory, observing the other players in fair, the entire diamond before me.

In basketball I was what we now call a “point guard.” As I brought the ball up court, the other nine players were in front of me.

As a high school and college football player, I was a defensive safety. No one was to get behind me; and at every snap, 21 other players were in my field of vision.

I’ve always known that participation in sports shaped very much of my character; but only recently – nearer the end of my professional career than to the start – am I seeing the whole field and appreciating the fullness of that influence. For example:

  • To be the one who asks for the fast ball or curve. Or the change-up when it’s needed.
  • To be the one who sets up each play and delivers the pass to get it started. And watching others score.
  • To be the one who makes the tackle when no one else is left to do so.
  • And most of all, to see the whole field; to see all of one’s teammates and observe how they all are indispensable to a winning performance.

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.