Undue Hardship

January 20, 2017

When appeals are made to the Executive Committee of the Michigan High School Athletic Association to advance the eligibility of a student for school sports, the argument is often made that application of the rule creates a hardship for a student who is not permitted to participate in competitive school sports.

Across the country when issues like these move beyond the appeals processes of state high school associations to courts of law, judges will sometimes opine that the student will suffer an undue hardship if he or she cannot play for a season, school year or career.

Given what is happening in our world, it always strikes me as absurd that anyone would allege or any court of law would rule that not being able to participate immediately or even at all in school sports is an undue hardship. There is hardship in the world, but sitting out school sports shouldn't appear on a list of hundreds of hardships being endured around the globe.

Consider, as I do regularly in one of my chief activities apart from my daily occupation, the hardships that are being endured by those who are fleeing a growing list of war-torn countries, by those who have been confined to refugee camps for many years, even by those who are fortunate enough to be resettled from those camps to far-away countries with different languages and customs.

These are real hardships that should embarrass those who suggest that sitting out school sports for a single contest or an entire career is a hardship. And the heroes are not those who challenge athletic eligibility rules but those who are being resettled in new nations, accepting work that is beneath their skills and experiences, and raising families who want nothing more than for their families to live in peace and security.

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.