Teachable Moments

April 1, 2017

Winter tournaments have ended and, weather permitting, spring sports are underway in Michigan junior high/middle schools and high schools.

We usually think of these programs as opportunities for kids to shine; and that they do provide. But more important are the opportunities these programs provide for kids to stub their toes.

In fact, one of the principal purposes of a competitive interscholastic athletic program is to provide a place for students to make mistakes in a safe and supportive environment.

People most often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Failure leads to more useful reflection than success. Getting knocked down (either physically or metaphorically), but getting up, gathering yourself and trying again with awareness of what did not work the first time, is a learning process as profound as it is efficient.

The principal purpose of school sports is to help young people learn life lessons. The more ways schools can facilitate failure and lift up the abundant lessons imbedded in those moments, the better they fulfill the mission of student-centered, school-sponsored competitive athletics.

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.