Soccer’s Shifting Sands

November 27, 2012

US Soccer has created “Development Academies” for high school age soccer players that prohibit those players from competing on their high school teams.  This has created a nationwide gnashing of teeth to which I contributed in this space on March 9, 2012 – “US Soccer Gets a Red Card.”

It now appears that the effects of US Soccer’s exclusionary policy have been felt in Michigan, as a new cast of characters played leading roles in the MHSAA’s recently completed Lower Peninsula Boys Soccer Tournament and the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association’s team rankings tilted from the southeast, home of the state’s two US Soccer Development Academy programs, and toward the west and north.

Divisions 1, 2 and 3 of the MHSAA boys tournament lacked a southeast team in the Finals; and the soccer coaches association did not rank a southeast team in the top two of Divisions 1 and 4, in the top four of Division 3, and in the top eight of Division 2.

Certainly, one year's results is not a trend; there could be other factors at play here.  And it’s also true that some folks are not alarmed, saying any student lost to the US Soccer Development Academy opens up a spot for another student to play for his high school team.

Perhaps that’s so.  Still, it is disconcerting that US Soccer now plans to descend to an even younger level of athlete for its boys development academy and to start a similar program for girls soccer.

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.