Valuing Variety

January 2, 2018

Editor's Note: This blog originally was posted March 28, 2014, and the topic continues to be of prime concern today.

Some people see the declining number of multiple-sport athletes in our high schools as a sign that students don’t want the multiple-sport experience anymore and would prefer to specialize in a single sport.

Maybe that’s not what students want at all. Maybe, if we actually asked them, they would tell us so.

In fact, I hear that students dislike and resent the pressure their high school volleyball coach puts on them in the winter, or their basketball coach puts on them in the spring, or their baseball or softball coach puts on them in the fall and the pressure that coaches of other sports, both team and individual, place them under year-round.

What I hear when I listen to students – and admittedly, I often get to talk to the cream of the crop (e.g., our Student Advisory Council and Scholar-Athlete Award recipients) – is that they want to play multiple sports and that they need us to hear that and to help them.

I remember that when we began bowling as an MHSAA tournament sport a dozen years ago, we thought we would be appealing to and involving students who play no other school sport. We are. But we are also engaging multiple-sport athletes.

At the MHSAA Bowling Finals four weeks ago I observed many students in school letter jackets sporting letters for soccer and bowling, cross country and bowling, track and bowling, and other combinations.

It proved again to me that very many students really do want to participate in a variety of sports and that one of our core operating principles should be that we continue to facilitate and validate that experience for as many students as possible.

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.