“What Can I Do?”

October 16, 2015

One of the very first chapters that educators wrote on the fundamentals of school-sponsored, student-centered sports described the bad of single-sport specialization and the benefits of multi-sport participation. And the basic policies of educational athletics have flowed for decades from that philosophy.

Sadly, every reasonable restraint that educators placed on school sports was eventually exploited by non-school youth sports organizations and commercial promoters which have seen the world quite differently and have filled almost every gap in school sports programs with alternative or additional programs that started sooner, traveled further, competed longer and ended later than educators believed was healthy for youth and adolescents and compatible with their academic obligations.

Recently (and as reported in this space on Sept. 15, 2015), there has been a chorus of concerns from many different corners echoing the voices of educators who had just about given up on this issue. Suddenly, early single-sport specialization by youth is being attacked from many directions as being injurious for youth, and the multi-sport experience (aka, “balanced participation”) is being advanced as the healthy prescription.

Now I’m being asked by interscholastic athletic administrators: “Yes, I hear the chatter, and I see the evidence and anecdotes; but what can I do?” Well, one idea is to follow the lead of St. Joseph High School Athletic Director, Kevin Guzzo.

Last school year Kevin started the “Iron Bears Club” to recognize and reward the school’s three-sport athletes. And last month Kevin made the multi-sport imperative a central theme in his annual report to the St. Joseph Board of Education.

Little steps in a local community? Perhaps. But multiply Kevin’s efforts by 500 or more schools in Michigan? It could be a sea change. And it would be good for 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.