January 10, 2017

When it comes to transfers, the staff of the Michigan High School Athletic Association gets lots of advice, but it comes from opposing directions.

One camp thinks MHSAA rules are inadequate. This group suggests that we expand the basic period of ineligibility from approximately 90 days to 180 days and/or it wants the MHSAA to eliminate most or all exceptions that allow for immediate eligibility of a transfer student.

This first camp is so frustrated with high-profile athletic-motivated or related transfers that they want to clamp down on all transfers.

The other camp thinks parents have the right and responsibility to send their children to any school they wish and have immediate access to the full benefits of that school’s curricular and extracurricular offerings.

This second camp is encouraged by the laws of Michigan which have gradually extended “schools of choice” as an option that all school districts may exercise. And this camp will be emboldened if the Secretary of Education under the new regime in Washington, D.C. is the long-time schools of choice advocate who has been nominated by the President-Elect for this position.

This second camp is on the right side of history, no matter how much I dislike it and no matter how convinced I am that the better way to have improved public education would have been to invest more in neighborhood schools. Improving them builds most communities. Ignoring them, as we have for 25 years, sends surrounding communities into downward spirals that worsen poverty and public health.

The ill-advised efforts to improve education by enticing students out of their neighborhoods to attend schools elsewhere has undermined “local ownership” in schools; and it has had the side effect of encouraging more transfers motivated by or related to athletics. Monitoring and managing such transfers is made more difficult by these educational reforms; but the new world will not tolerate transfer rules that are seen as too broad and contrary to what has become public policy, however poorly conceived and executed.

The fact is, the future of the transfer rule will be less about extending its reach and more about retaining its existence.

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.