Time for Tough Topics

February 28, 2014

The daily deluge of calls and emails about issues that matter that day tempt us to take our eye off other issues that matter today, tomorrow and for many years. Good service requires that we respond promptly and pleasantly to the daily details, but good leadership requires that we give adequate attention to matters more fundamental to the mission of school-sponsored sports, and more critical to the future of educational athletics.

No matter how many times we’re contacted about today’s programs and problems, we must create our own time to dive deeply into the core philosophies and cornerstone policies of voluntary competitive interscholastic athletics.

We have attempted to do this with the “Four Thrusts for Four Years” campaign to address health and safety issues, especially but far from exclusively focusing on increased acclimatization and decreased head-to-head contact in football practices. The practice proposals of the 2013 Football Task Force – developed over a series of meetings by serious people, appear to have widespread support and should receive an affirmative vote by the Representative Council next month.

Similarly, we have appointed a task force to work throughout 2014 on junior high/middle school issues. Theirs is the difficult challenge of locating the sweet spot – the policies that protect the multi-sport experience in a learning environment for our younger students while still providing more competition, and for younger grades, to attract and hold the interest of junior high/middle school students and their parents who are seeking much more competition much earlier in life than the MHSAA’s current policies allow.

Out-of-season contact by high school coaches with their high school students is another of the topics that is often discussed and occasionally studied, and the rules governing out-of-season coaching are frequently tweaked. The result is a mammoth section of the Handbook that is difficult to read and follow, and invites widespread disrespect. MHSAA staff is conducting a series of two-hour sessions to try to reframe the discussion and present to the membership by next fall a new (and briefer) set of rules and interpretations. The goal will be to respect both the guiding principles of educational athletics as well as society’s changes since the current rules were first developed.

That’s the goal for all of this these tough, timeless topics.

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.