Sweating the Small Stuff - #2

June 1, 2018

Seeding of Michigan High School Athletic Association tournaments, especially basketball and ice hockey, is a topic that routinely finds its way to MHSAA Representative Council agendas.

In May of 2017, the Council rejected a comprehensive proposal to seed the District and Regional levels of MHSAA Basketball Tournaments; but the Council instructed MHSAA staff to examine ideas for limited seeding at the District level only, using an MHSAA-controlled system.

In May of 2017, it appeared there was a small number of Council members who supported the proposal submitted for that meeting by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, and that there were two larger groups – one open to seeding on a more limited basis than BCAM proposed and another group opposed to seeding of any scope by any system.

MHSAA staff responded to the Council’s request by presenting in March of this year and again in May a plan for seeding only the top two teams of each District, to which teams would continue to be assigned by geographic proximity, and then placing top seeds on brackets that would assure those two teams could not meet until the District Finals.

The staff provided answers to the many obvious policy and practical questions, including the system to be used, the games to be included and the placement of teams on brackets.

The effort to arm the Council with these answers had the effect of turning some advocates into opponents of seeding. It was as if the more questions staff anticipated with answers, the more people objected to the plan.

This brought defeat to the plan to seed basketball Districts, and the same to plans to seed ice hockey Regionals and Semifinals.

The questions now are: Do we vote on a fully vetted plan, knowing the details before we move forward; or do we buy a pig in a poke, voting in a concept without details, surprising others and ourselves with how seeding would be implemented? And do we vote on anything at all until we have answered the large philosophical questions as well as the dozens of smaller practical questions that seeding requires we address.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.