System Failure

October 19, 2012

Almost every week we learn of another college or professional athlete who has exploded in rage, abused a fan or friend, been busted or broken parole, been stopped for speeding or DUI.

Among very many reasons why, one of the greatest may be this: we taught them to behave this way . . . the system caused them to become this way.

Sometimes the positive character traits taught through high school sports are overwhelmed by the extravagant attention given to athletes by the media, college recruiters, ranking services, agents, promoters and sporting equipment/apparel companies. Good kids begin to believe the hype, thinking they're not only above the crowd, but above the law. They go from being self-confident, to self-centered, to self-serving. 

There are good reasons that, in school sports, we attempt to restrain the hype and deflect attention from individual to team. We could use some help at home and in the media.

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.