April 1, 2014

A student was badly hurt in an Ice Hockey Regional Tournament game last season. A split second after dropping the puck to a teammate, and still looking in that direction, this player received the shoulder of an opposing player just seconds after coming on the ice as a legal substitute. The hit did not appear to target the head, nor seem excessively aggressive; but it was delivered to an unsuspecting and exposed player.

No penalty was called; but when the veteran and highly rated official saw video of the play, he didn’t hesitate to say, “I missed it. A penalty should have been called.”

There were other shortcomings in the delivery of this tournament experience that we regret, including that the game was managed in more partisan fashion than the MHSAA prescribes and that the on-call ambulance was slow to arrive on scene.

Within the leadership of the schools involved there has been a sense of understanding that there can be injuries in sports, especially collision sports; and that sometimes they occur on legal plays and sometimes occur during illegal plays that were not penalized.

In these circumstances, the MHSAA does not seek the punishments that a few incensed adults call for. Rather than looking backward at retribution, the MHSAA’s legal role and moral responsibility requires a more forward look toward remedies. 

For example:

  • How can we use this excellent official’s “no-call” as a teachable moment for other officials on a subject that is already a point of special emphasis in the NFHS Ice Hockey Rules?
  • How can we use this situation as a teachable moment in preparation of coaches and players?
  • How can we use this situation to improve the environment at this and all other Ice Hockey Tournament venues?

We know with certainty that both the content and the delivery of our online and face-to-face communications for 2014-15 will be affected by this very uncommon and unacceptable experience.

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.