A Service Ace

October 18, 2011

I don’t write much about high school tennis, but I probably should.

It’s a terrific “lifetime” sport.  It’s a sport we can play into our “golden years;” and, without officials to make the calls, it also has the potential to teach lifetime values.

But no sport we administer gives us more headaches.  Too often we encounter overly-involved parents and under-involved school administrators; and we’re not certain if one doesn’t cause the other.

It’s a sport that brings chronic complaints of coaches “stacking” lineups.  So serious have the allegations been for so long that the MHSAA actually convened a group and hired a professional facilitator to try to resolve some of the problems, without much success.

It’s a sport that devotes hundreds of hours to seeding; and while the seeds almost always hold up, criticism flies fast and furious for several days each fall and spring following the boys and girls seeding committee meetings.

We are fortunate that the MHSAA’s administrator for tennis, Gina Mazzolini, has the perspective that, in spite of everything, it’s really only a small percentage of people involved who create the majority of problems.  It is, in fact, according to Gina, a fine educational experience for the vast majority of students involved.

This “big picture” perspective that Gina exhibits is what allows administrators at the local and statewide levels to remain passionate about their service no matter how prominent or persistent the problems seem.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.