Travel Bug

November 2, 2012

International trips for U.S. youth sports teams is a big business.  Sometimes the target is school sports teams; and sometimes those schools and communities get foreign travel fever.

While I have nothing against international travel – in fact, it’s a hobby my wife and I enthusiastically share – I caution against international trips for teams or individual athletes.

Sometimes the competition is badly matched.  Sometimes our teams encounter and are routed by another country’s “national team.”  More often, our teams encounter poorly organized events and weak, thrown-together opposing teams and substandard venues.  But that’s not the major concern here.

Several years ago, a Michigan community spent $23,000 to help send 20 baseball players from three of its high schools to participate overseas.  That’s nice, but the school district didn’t have a junior high baseball program; and I wondered if the community fundraising might not have been used to provide new opportunities for more student-athletes.

About the same time, there was an effort to fund one basketball player from each of a league’s schools to compete in an international basketball tournament.  The cost was $2,200 for each student; and again I wondered if those communities might not have uses for the money that could provide benefit to more student-athletes.

Why do we spend thousands on a few when the same amounts of money could restore or expand opportunities for many?  Why do we focus on the fortunate few while the foundations of our programs rot through eliminated junior high programs and pay-for-play senior high programs?

No one can argue that some of these trips do some of our students some good.  But do they offer enough good for the few at a time when many students aren’t being offered even the basic opportunities of interscholastic athletics?

Local leadership should say “No” to requests to support expensive international trips.  There’s need for them to put more into the foundation of our programs and less into foreign travel.

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.