December 19, 2014

Many in the interscholastic tennis community of this state have complained for years about the unethical practices of a small number of coaches who “stack” their lineups so that their better players compete in lower flights to increase their chances of success in advancing and earning points for their teams.
The current meet scoring system, which fails to reward teams for placing players at the highest levels, invites the problem. Appealing to personal integrity works with most coaches, but not all; so the issue of stacking festers, and it frustrates many coaches.
Hearing this pain, in 2009 the MHSAA convened a group of tennis coaches to discuss stacking. We utilized a paid professional facilitator. One obvious outcome was very little support to solve the problem by restructuring the tennis meet scoring system to disincentivize stacking.
The simple solution – to modify the meet scoring system to provide more team points for Number 1 singles than Number 2, and for Number 2 more than Number 3, etc. – was a double fault with the clear majority of the coaches assembled in 2009.
Of course, simple solutions rarely are so simple. And with this scoring system solution comes the likelihood that stronger teams move even further out of reach of their challengers. Other critics are uncomfortable with giving one student-athlete a higher potential team point value than another.
If those and other objections are the prevailing sentiment, then a new scoring system won’t be in our future. And stacking still will be.

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.