We Get It

November 4, 2011

Participation in high school sports, both nationally and in Michigan, increased in 2010-11 versus the year before.  It was the 22nd consecutive year of increases nationally, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The National Federation also conducted a first-of-its-kind attendance survey that tells us in 2009-10 that there were more than a half billion spectators at high school sporting events across the country.  There were more than two and a half times as many fans attending high school basketball and football contests as attended college and professional contests combined in those sports.

We should be excited about our programs and encouraged by their historical popularity and continuing growth.  But clearly, we are not.  In fact, we are a discouraged bunch.

We are discouraged because, behind the good numbers that are reported, we see serious erosion – a subtle “slip-sliding away” of the principles and the popularity of school-based sports.  In spite of the good numbers, we sense that all is not well in educational athletics.

In many places athletic directors are losing their full-time dedicated positions, which are essential to oversee a program of high participation, large crowds, great emotion and some risk of injury.  In many places students are losing participation opportunities, which are essential components of a complete education necessary to prepare young people for the increasingly complicated and competitive world which they are about to enter.

We get it at the MHSAA.  We know what’s happening.  Not only do we get it, we also get the hundreds of calls from coaches who don’t have an athletic director available to answer their questions.  And we get the hundreds and hundreds of calls from parents and others who can find neither a coach nor an athletic director available to address their concerns or answer their questions.  Almost every time a school district dials down its oversight of the interscholastic athletic program, its constituents dial up the MHSAA to answer their questions and address their concerns.

Less money for and less oversight of school sports is a combination tailor-made for problems – for ineligible students and forfeits, for crowd control and sportsmanship problems, and for injuries; and in all cases, for the controversies that follow.  There are smarter places to make cuts in our schools and still turn out smart kids.

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.