Soccer Head Games

September 1, 2015

I have been trying to get our soccer purists in Michigan to consider – to at least talk about – less head-to-ball contact – at least at the junior high/middle school level. I’ve had very little success. Apparently I lack credentials to offer suggestions about the “beautiful game.”

Recently, people who do have the credentials that I apparently lack have given credibility to my concerns, including a host of former World Cup champions led by Brandi Chastain, who are supporting Safer Soccer which says banning heading for participants under 14 years old (especially females) is a “no brainer.”

Launched in 2014 by Sports Legacy Institute and the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics, the goal of Safer Soccer is to educate the soccer community that delaying heading until age 14 or high school “would eliminate the No. 1 cause of concussions in middle school soccer and is in the best interest of youth soccer players.”

The danger is both in the head-to-ball contact and the head-to-head contact by two players competing to head the ball.

There are legitimate differences of opinion on this topic, as well as absurd claims of some that this campaign is intended to give back the hard-fought gains of women in sports, and equally bizarre blather of others that this is intended to keep the sport of soccer in a place of secondary profile in the U.S. If we can get past that nonsense, perhaps then we can have an adult debate about children’s health.

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.