Student-Centered Coaching

August 1, 2017

The November 1929 Bulletin of the Michigan High School Athletic Association includes this editorial reprinted from the Oct. 7, 1929 Grand Rapids Herald which invites discussion about what more we might do to promote leadership and sportsmanship in school-sponsored sports today.

“Football teams of Greenville and Ionia high schools Saturday introduced an innovation the nature of which challenges consideration of other Michigan schools. From the time the first whistle blew for Saturday’s game until its close the professional coaches employed by the two schools had no contact with players. Between the halves the usual harangue by the coach was dispensed with in favor of a review of play by players. * * * The result of such a policy is unsullied amateurism along the lines we often have urged. The players are on their own. They do their own thinking as well as playing. Under the system as usually followed the coach sits on the sidelines. If he sees an opportunity for a plan of play differing from that being followed he sends in a substitute who carries instructions: ‘Stick to forward passes. Bang away at their left end,’ etc. Between the halves the coach points out faults and emphasizes opportunities for the final half. In net effect the coach directs the play. The initiative of captain or quarterback is permitted only so long as the coach approves. Under the Greenville system the captain is the only recognized leader of the team. He directs substitutions, orders plays, advises players, etc. At Greenville school boys played against school boys. On other western Michigan gridirons a coach is the 12th member of every team. * * * The plan adopted at Greenville was suggested by President Angell of Yale in his annual report for 1927-28. He urged that, ‘There is a wide and well-grounded sentiment that the control of our games should be put back more fully into the hands of the players.’ Yale has not heeded Prexy Angell’s advice, but the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has adopted it as also have some Detroit high schools. It takes the sting of professionalism out of the scholastic game. The able coach still has ample opportunity to prove his worth in teaching the fundamentals of the game and in developing ‘football brains’; but when the whistle blows it is high school team against high school team. What’s the matter with trying that in Grand Rapids? What, if any, are the arguments against it?”

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.