War Stories

May 25, 2012

I recently returned from a national meeting of my counterparts – an annual gathering where legal and legislative topics are on the agenda. With increasing frequency, the business aspects of the gatherings are sidetracked by “war stories,” as my colleagues relate the latest attacks on their organizations by media, legislators, lawyers, parents and others as these good leaders assist their member schools in regulating interscholastic athletics. 

It is well known that respect for authority figures and organizations of all kinds has been slipping for decades; and there are many reasons for it.  What has made the decline even more apparent is the Internet where people can communicate with more speed and less consequence than before.

It is well studied that appropriateness of tone and language diminishes as one moves from face-to-face meetings, to telephonic conversations, to traditional letters, to emails, texts and Twitter.

People will usually research topics and learn more about the complexities of an issue before meetings and use dialogue to come to consensus during conversations.  They will be more circumspect and contemplative in correspondence (which means, literally, an exchange of letters).  But they will not hesitate to make assertions and cast aspersions without any factual basis in brief, one-sided email or social media comments; which usually adds nothing but acrimony to the issue.

Perhaps by being the No. 1 user of social media among the nation’s state high school associations, the MHSAA has made the problem worse.  Perhaps by being the only state high school association executive director in the country to blog, I’ve also added to the problem.

Sports, after all, is not a subject that often suffers from too little communication.  Perhaps, at least sometimes, it suffers from too much quantity and too little quality.

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.