An Unsustainable Trend

February 10, 2015

Decades ago there was much criticism from college and university physical education departments that schools were sacrificing broad-based programs of intramurals and recreation for higher-profile programs of interscholastic sports teams.

Today, broad-based intramural/recreational programs have all but vanished from schools; and the criticism now is that elite community club and travel teams threaten the broad and deep interscholastic athletic program schools have been providing students.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen the image of school sports go from elitist to egalitarian. From a few sports teams for boys in the 1950s, to teams on multiple levels in many sports for both boys and girls today.

Over the same period when the public profile of school sports has been diminished by many societal trends but especially the ascendancy of major college and professional sports riding the proliferation of television sets and rising profits from sports broadcasts, the breadth and depth of school sports was busy expanding the circle for which it provides opportunities to play.

The irony is that in this time of school sports’ greatest inclusion, school sports is on its weakest financial footing. When it is doing the most, school sports is being supported the least.

It’s an indefensible, unsustainable trend that must be addressed by those who control the purse strings of state government and local school districts.

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.