Show of Hands

July 12, 2017

Four dozen years ago, my boss, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, expressed to me his disappointment that one of the characteristics of NFHS national meetings was the much too frequent “show of hands.” That is, someone from one state would rise to ask for a show of hands on a topic: “How many states do this? ... How many states don’t? ... How many do that?”

My mentor’s point was that the time would be much better spent on a qualitative analysis of the topic, rather than a quantitative one ... a discussion of the merits of a particular policy or procedure, rather than a head count.

His message to me is recalled every time a proposal comes to the Michigan High School Athletic Association to change this or that policy and is accompanied by the meager rationale that it’s what 25 or 35 or 45 other states might do. That stat holds only mild interest for me.

Before we do anything here to be like anybody elsewhere, we need to measure the pros and cons in our place and time ... how it fits our culture or our climate, for example.

When we consider change in the start or end of seasons; or the number of interscholastic scrimmages or contests in a day, week or season; or the number of exceptions to the transfer rule or the length of ineligibility when no exception applies; or the number of classes or divisions for tournaments; or the existence or extent of seeding for a tournament; when we consider any of these things in Michigan, we need much better rationale than a show of hands.

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.