Transforming Coaches

October 12, 2012

Forty-two years ago this past August, I showed up at a high school near Milwaukee for my first teaching and coaching job.  I remember being introduced to the football team just before the first practice, and then just 60 minutes later, on the field, I heard a player call me “coach.”

The next day I overheard one player say to another, “Coach Roberts said . . .”

In 24 hours, I had been transformed from Jack Roberts to Coach Roberts.  And it gave me a very special feeling.

After parents (and sometimes before them), the coach is the most important person in the educational process of school sports.  Good coaches can redeem the bad decisions that administrators or parents sometimes make; and bad coaches can ruin the best decisions of administrators and parents.

Coaches have enormous influence over how kids think, how they act and what they value.

There is no time or money better spent in school sports than the time and money spent on coaches education.  Every coach, every year in continuing education regarding the best practices of supervision, instruction and sports safety, as well as in ethics, values, sportsmanship and leadership.

The MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program should be the centerpiece of every school district’s ongoing, multi-faceted training program for coaches.  We expect continuing education for classroom teachers.  Why would we ever consider less for those who work with large numbers of students in settings of high emotion and with some risk of injury attended by hundreds or even thousands of spectators?

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.