Sportsmanship is a Way of Life

January 4, 2013

Twenty years ago the MHSAA received a plaque from a member school that I continue to prize above all other awards our organization has received.  The plaque reads:  “In recognition of outstanding contributions to interscholastic athletics, and for promotion of sportsmanship as a way of life for all young athletes.”

There are no words I would more prefer to describe the work of the MHSAA then and now than those highlighted words.  No work we do is any more important than promoting sportsmanship as a way of life.  Reduced to a phrase, that’s our most essential purpose; that’s our product.

Not victories, titles or championships, but sportsmanship.  Not awards or records, but sportsmanship.

It’s teaching and learning sportsmanship more than speed and strength; sportsmanship more than coordination and conditioning; sportsmanship more than skills and strategies.  Even more than teamwork, hard work, discipline and dedication, it’s sportsmanship we teach and learn.

In Discovery of Morals, the sociologist author (not a sportsman) writes, “Sportsmanship is probably the clearest and most popular expression of morals.  Sportsmanship is a thing of the spirit.  It is timeless and endless; and we should strive to make it universal to all races, creeds and walks in life.”

Sportsmanship is more than a list of do’s and don’ts; more than grace in victory and defeat; more than how we play the game and watch the games.  It’s how we live our lives.

Sportsmanship begins in our homes.  We work on it in practice.  It extends to games.  It reaches up to the crowd.  It permeates the school halls and shopping malls.  And it begins to affect society for good, or for bad.

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.