Summer School Sports

October 14, 2014

We are talking statewide about changes in MHSAA policies that some constituents think are overdue but that many other constituents find are over the top. For example:

  • Permitting MHSAA member junior high/middle schools to engage students prior to the 7th grade, and to schedule longer contests, more contests and even MHSAA Regional tournaments; and

  • Permitting member school coaches to engage more with their student-athletes outside their defined school sports seasons.

From my perspective, these are the kinds of moves to make to assure a future for school-based sports, for wherever and whenever we have paused or imposed a restriction, there and then non-school coaches, programs and “handlers” have moved in; and some of them have not played nicely. And the more I’ve seen non-school currents pollute the waters of school sports, the less I’ve wanted to restrict the engagement of school coaches out of season or confine school sports to traditional seasons.

What we are talking about today are not only overdue changes, they are insufficient if we really want to return school sports to the central, most coveted and compelling sports experience for youth. To more certainly assure that future role, we should be doing more than merely adjusting our outdated junior high/middle school programming to fit the modern world where children begin to play at younger ages and compete at higher levels than is currently allowed for MHSAA member schools. Our 1950s philosophy for the junior high/middle school level does not fit 2014 reality.

But we shouldn’t stop there. We should also be rethinking and retooling the high school level with an innovative school-sponsored and conducted summer season that includes school seasons and MHSAA tournaments in ...

  • Coed team tennis.

  • Coed golf in the Ryder Cup format.

  • Non-contact 7-on-7 football for boys, and flag football for girls.

And there obviously could be much more that would be fun and engaging and educational for our students.

Certainly, there will be objections, and most will center on finances. But if non-school sports have figured out ways to finance programs in what are now our off seasons, we too can figure out ways to pay for our new summertime programs.

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.