Shared Responsibility

March 26, 2013

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My counterpart in Georgia has a nice way with words, and recently used that talent to add his perspective to topics like those we’ve been addressing here in Michigan.  In the March 2013 Georgia High School Association newsletter, under the title “All of Us Must ‘Pay the Price’ for Student-Athlete Wellness,” GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearingin writes:

“In ‘History and Philosophy of Education’ courses many of us learned that an early concept in the American educational system involved the school operating ‘in loco parentis’ – in the place of the parent.  During those early days, that concept was applied to the authority of school personnel to regulate the behavior of students.  Over time, however, the application of that concept to school discipline has diminished.

“It is interesting to note that school personnel are called upon to fulfill parental roles in ways that were not prevalent in the past.  Over time there has been an evolution of responsibilities placed on the educational system to provide services that used to be provided by the family.  One such area involves the responsibility to be the ‘health and safety guardians’ of our students.  Debates about whether it is the school’s responsibility are non-productive.  This responsibility has been thrust upon member schools and state association staff members, and it is doubtful that this trend is reversible . . .

The very nature of athletics makes it impossible to guarantee the safety of every student in every sport.  The goal is to minimize the risk to these students with prudent preparation and vigilant supervision.  While the American culture may be thrusting this responsibility on the school personnel, there are productive ways to send some of that responsibility back to the students and their families.

“. . . Students and their families need to be informed about all of these issues.  Preseason meetings with players and parents or guardians should involve the dissemination of information about relevant health and safety considerations . . .

“But education of players and their families is not enough.  Coaches must be certain to teach techniques that minimize risks, and to be certain that all equipment used in the sport are in good repair and are being used properly.  School personnel need to be certain that published guidelines and protocols are being followed.  Doing these things involves the expenditure of time and money, but the well-being of our students dictates that we ‘pay the price.’ ”

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.