Staying Alive

June 9, 2015

It has been said by others more clever with a phrase than I am, “Travel has its dangers, but routine can be deadly.” 
World travel is something I'm passionate about and it has added adventure and perspective that have enriched my existence; but I do not dare pontificate on how other people choose to live their personal lives. That's each person's personal business and none of mine.  
However, at this stage in my career, I do feel comfortable suggesting that this travel metaphor is a healthy way to think about one's professional life, and a productive way to nurture the life of organizations. Many executives and their boards may get too comfortable with routine, emphasizing risk management more than innovation, reducing the chances of failure and criticism rather than seeking the adventure of new ways of thinking and acting that could lead to new ways of serving.  
I say, with massive respect for the traditional core values of school sports, that fear of doing big, untested things – risky adventures – has caused school sports organizations to miss opportunities for so many years that they have become close to irrelevant in the youth sports experience of this country. We have failed to travel, or taken such safe trips that we are dying rather than thriving on behalf of students, their schools and our society.
For the past half-dozen years, and especially in 2015-16, the MHSAA is in a traveling mode. In doing so, we add some danger to our lives, but at least we stay alive. In fact, we may never, ever have been as vibrant as we are right now.

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.