The Student Effect

January 7, 2014

The key to assuring an activity is educational is to consider the effect on the student of every decision made. For example, what is the effect on a student who ...

  • gets cut from the team?
  • never gets in a game?
  • never experiences a win, or never a loss?
  • frequently hears vulgarity or profanity?
  • is taught how not to get caught breaking a rule?

If one student’s participation is at the expense of another student’s self-esteem, whether opponent or teammate, we can’t justify the program. It’s not consistent with the educational mission of schools.

If we ridicule those who fail, or if we lavish too much praise on those who achieve, we can’t justify the program. It’s not educational athletics.

If we direct or pressure students to specialize in only athletics or non-athletic activities, or in just one sport or activity, we can’t justify the program. It’s not educational.

If we miss or misuse the teachable moments of school sports – split seconds of time and circumstance in which to teach values like commitment, discipline, integrity, hard work and teamwork, we can’t justify the program. It’s not educational.

We assure the program is educational when we consider the effect on the student and when we seize the positive purposes of teachable moments that permeate the program.

None of this means we can’t have rules that, when violated, remove the privilege of participation. And none of this means we cannot have teams with both starters and substitutes, and contests that determine wins and losses. It means that there are objectives that go much deeper and outcomes that go much further.

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.