Student-Centered Sports

November 1, 2013

We boldly, unapologetically and repeatedly state that interscholastic athletics are different than sports programs on any other level by any other sponsor – different because these programs are school-sponsored and, to an extent like no other, student-centered. But what does that really mean?

The easier to describe – school-sponsored – means that interscholastic athletics are conducted by schools themselves. They are administered under the auspices of boards of education, with responsibilities delegated to administrators, and then to coaches, who are closely supervised by those administrators under the broad policies and procedures approved by their local boards of education.

The more difficult to describe – student-centered – means that our orientation starts with students. We think first about how many we can include, not how many we exclude. We adopt rules not to be elite but to enhance the experience for students, knowing that the higher the standards we establish for eligibility and conduct, the greater the benefit to the students, their schools and the surrounding community.

In a student-centered program, thought is given not only to the students who want exceptions to rules, but also to the other students who would be displaced if those exceptions were made.

In a student-centered program, we consider the whole child and all the children.

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.