Tending a Small Garden

June 12, 2015

I offer this posting as an important qualifier to my previous posting.

Year after year I expanded the borders of my garden. And year after year the overall quality of the garden declined.

I didn't notice at first. I failed to see as I introduced new plants that some of the older plants were struggling, or that other plants were growing without shape or direction. I didn't see that some weeds were taking hold in the original space that was receiving less of my attention than the newer space.

I am unable to miss this metaphor for school sports.

When we try to grow interscholastic athletics too large, we risk becoming incapable of maintaining the essential beauty and purity of educational athletics. Certain programs grow out of control, other programs weaken. Influences are introduced, some of which can be aggressive enough to take over the whole enterprise.

Let international, professional, major college and even youth sports grow out of control. Ours is and must continue to be a small garden, tended closely and carefully.

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.