Staying the Course

August 7, 2015

During my first days on this job 30 years ago this week, I told the MHSAA staff, interviewers and constituents that from my first week on the job to my last, there would be four fundamental issues which would continuously have our attention. Different problems, trends and fads would come and go; but we would remain faithful to these four topics:
  • Scholarship – meaning scholarship in high school, not athletic scholarships to college; maintaining school sports as a helper to the schools’ academic mission.
  • Sportsmanship – meaning the environment at interscholastic events, shaped by the attitudes and actions of players, coaches and spectators; seeing good sportsmanship as a precursor to good citizenship.
  • Safety – assuring parents that their children not only will be as safe as possible in school sports, but will develop habits that tend to encourage a lifetime of better health.
  • Scope – placing borders around school sports that tend to assure a sane and sensible, student-centered educational experience.

I said in 1986 that these would still be our top topics in 1996, 2006 and 2016; and the “Four S’s” have stood the test of time. In fact, they stand even taller now than three decades ago.

On Monday, the first day of this 30th year, 95 representatives of 70 schools gathered for training to execute one of two pilot programs we have launched for 2015-16 to improve the process of concussion detection at interscholastic practices and contests.

When fall practices begin next week, they will do so with three other health and safety changes.

  • All member schools, grades 7 through 12, must report all suspected concussions at practices and games to the MHSAA, utilizing a web-based reporting system on
  • All high school varsity head coaches must have a current certification in CPR.
  • All athletes in all levels of all sports in MHSAA member schools grades 7 through 12 will be provided, without charge to either their families or the schools, concussion care insurance aimed at assuring all students have access to prompt, professional medical care, regardless of family resources.

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.