A Solutions Approach

July 13, 2015

I had not been to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, and I expected to see much change since my several visits before the flooding. What I discovered when I attended national meetings there recently was little change ... including most of the same sights, sounds and smells of years before. I expected the same of the national meetings ... “same-ol’ same-ol’.”
It has become tradition that the executive directors of the 50 statewide high school athletic associations meet twice during the annual summer meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations in sessions separate from all other delegates to that large convention. It has also been customary for me to leave those sessions depressed as problem was heaped upon problem by the directors, with little attention to solutions.
However, between the two sessions this year, a small group of the executive directors talked about strategies to redirect the conversation; and the result of the second session in New Orleans was to develop a strategy for identifying and prioritizing the most significant problems of school-based sports, and then identifying and prioritizing the resources and alliances currently available, as well as those that could be developed through cooperative effort and strategic partnerships, to attack the most pressing problems.
The expertise to solve such problems has been in our room for years. What has been lacking is the commitment to a process that could move us from a group accomplished in citing problems and suggesting reasons for them to a group accomplished in working together to solve the most significant problems.
So, the “Big Easy” is and may remain pretty much as it always has been. But maybe future meetings of the National Federation, wherever they may be, will be undergoing substantive change.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.