Tournament Talk

December 30, 2013

As educators reconsider the grade level that school sports will begin to serve younger students and tweak the contest limitations for junior high/middle school students, they will not be able to avoid tournament talk.

Although middle school and even elementary school tournaments exist in many states, only a very small number of our constituents in Michigan promote the idea of statewide tournaments for junior high/middle school students.

A larger group of our constituents sees a place for MHSAA sponsored and conducted tournaments confined to smaller geographic areas. Something special – different than a regular-season event – but nothing spectacular. Modest travel and trophies.

A still larger group opposes this idea. Some people are opposed on a philosophical or educational basis – e.g., that it’s too early an age to promote competition to this extent and likely to interfere with the educational mission of schools. Other people oppose these regional tournaments for financial reasons – lacking adequate funds to fully fund high school programs, they cannot fathom how more funds can be spent on an expanded junior high/middle school sports program.

It is hard to see any increased expenditure on junior high/middle school sports – on programs for students before the 7th and 8th grades or for more contests for 7th- and 8th-graders – as an investment in the future of high school sports; but it is. The earlier we grab the attention of students and their parents and the more we expose them to the pure purposes and educational philosophies of school sports, the healthier our high school programs will be.

It is in the broad, deep roots of junior high/middle school programs that the branches of high school sports will flourish.

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.