Suspicious Solutions

January 17, 2017

Fifty-two weeks ago yesterday I had hip replacement surgery on my right side. My recovery was so speedy that most people outside the offices of the Michigan High School Athletic Association never noticed, and I was back to my normal activities and workouts very quickly.

But gradually during late summer and then dramatically in early November, my body reacted. It has been giving me pain from hip to foot on my left side, a limp I can’t disguise, and a metaphor for this message.

It appears that correcting one thing adversely affected another thing; and the second problem is much more painful than the first one was.

So-called solutions often have unintended consequences, worse than the original problem. For example:

  • Every expansion of the MHSAA Football Playoffs has had an effect opposite of what was intended. Each has added additional stress on local scheduling and league affiliations; and each expansion has increased the likelihood of repeat champions.
  • Seeding MHSAA Basketball Tournaments, seen by some people as a solution so that the best teams will square off later in the tournament trail, will have those same consequences – stress on scheduling and leagues, and more repeat champions.

  • Relaxing requirements for cooperative programs once seemed like a good thing, but now it is more frequent that schools take the easy route – sending their students off to play on another school’s team – rather than doing the hard thing – providing and promoting the sport themselves. The former provides far fewer participation opportunities than the latter – the opposite of the intended purpose for cooperative programs.

  • Charter schools and School of Choice policies were supposed to force schools to improve through competition, but this “solution” devastated neighborhood schools. These policies didn’t “empower” parents, they created estrangement between schools and communities.

I could go on. The point is, my limp is a reminder to be on the lookout for the new problems inherent in so-called solutions.

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.