Soccer for Schools

January 22, 2016

International soccer has provided me the greatest experience I’ve ever had as a sports spectator. Watching the Boca Juniors come back to win 2-1 in overtime in their historic stadium in Buenos Aires in November 2013 provided me an almost out-of-body experience as the home team fans, decked out in blue and yellow and waving flags, sang their way through the lows and dramatic highs of this match.

Soccer has been called “the beautiful game.” But of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; and not all sports fans see beauty in a game that, at its highest levels, has so little scoring and so much flopping, and only one person knows how much time remains in the game. And of course, the sport has been supervised at the highest levels by individuals so corrupt that they make the recent scandals of this nation’s Amateur Athletic Union leadership seem like child’s play.

Soccer is a global game, and we – at the high school level – are not going to change the game at its highest level in the U.S. I don’t really care. I just want a more appropriate game for the interscholastic level.

We already have altered the global game’s substitution rules for the interscholastic level to promote greater participation and player safety. And we use a scoreboard that lets teams and spectators know how much time remains in each half.

To promote more safety, we could implement a football style practice policy that limits the number of practices when heading the ball can occur to one per day during the preseason and to two per week during the regular season.

To promote more scoring, we could implement a basketball style “over-and-back” rule at the midfield line, and also by prohibiting defenders from playing the ball to their own goalkeepers.

The beautiful game has imperfections – at least for our purposes – which we have corrected for our needs in the past and we can do more of in the future without challenging the global juggernaut that soccer has become.

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.