Sixth-Graders’ Place

October 4, 2013

Historically, the popular opinion among educators has held that 7th and 8th grade is early enough for schools to provide competitive athletics, early enough to put youth into the competitive sports arena, early enough to pit one school against another in sports.

Today, however, many educators and parents point out that such protective philosophies and policies were adopted about the same time “play days” were considered to be the maximum exertion females should experience in school sports. Some administrators and coaches argue that both our severe limits on contest limits at the junior high/middle school level, and our refusal to serve 6th-graders, are as out of date and inappropriate as play days for females.

Today, in more than three of four school districts with MHSAA member schools, 6th-graders go to school in the same building with 7th- and 8th-graders. But MHSAA rules don’t allow 6th-graders to participate with and against 7th- and 8th-graders. In fact, the MHSAA Constitution doesn’t even acknowledge that 6th-graders exist.

Today, in many places, 6th-graders have aged-out of non-school, community sports, but they are not permitted to play on MHSAA junior high/middle school teams.

Last school year, 50 different school districts requested this rule be waived for them, and the MHSAA Executive Committee approved 46 of 50 waivers, allowing 6th-graders to compete on 7th- and 8th-grade teams. During 2011-12, 37 of 40 requests for waiver were approved, in all cases for small junior high/middle schools.

Many school districts choose not to join the MHSAA at the junior high/middle school level because of this issue – because 6th-graders can’t play with 7th- and 8th-graders. Just as many school districts choose not to join because MHSAA contest limitations are too restrictive at the junior high/middle school level.

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.