What Sport Looks Like

April 9, 2013

The decision of the International Olympic Committee to eliminate wrestling from its schedule of events is deplorable for more reasons than I have room to describe here.  Many others have expressed their outrage, which I share; and it looks like there will be a concerted effort to have the IOC reverse itself.

Notwithstanding all the angst it created and has yet to endure, the IOC’s policies and procedures are intriguing, and possibly useful.  They go something like this.

Periodically, the IOC requires each of the designated Olympic sports to defend its status, to state their case why the sport should remain a part of the Olympic program.  Then, after a series of votes that retain one sport at a time, the IOC drops the sport that makes the weakest case.  It does so to make room for one of the previously unlisted sports that makes the best case for inclusion.

This would appear to keep the existing Olympic sports on their toes, and to keep the Olympic movement fresh and reflective of modern trends in sports.

While I would not enjoy the controversy, I can see the potential for some positive results if the MHSAA were to invoke the same policy for determining the 14 tournaments it will provide for girls and the 14 for boys.

This might cause us to consider more deeply what a high school sport should look like, or at least what an MHSAA tournament sport should stand for.

On the one hand, we might be inclined to delete those sports that involve mostly non-faculty coaches and non-school venues, or require cooperative programs to generate enough participants to support a team, or resort almost entirely to non-school funding, or cater to individuals more than teams.

Or perhaps this process would cause policymakers to forget traditional thinking and ask:  “In this day and age, should we shake off traditional notions of sport and consider more where modern kids are coming from?”  That might mean fewer team sports and more individual sports, more “extreme” sports like snowboarding and skateboarding, and more lifetime sports, meaning not just golf and tennis and running sports, but also fishing and shooting sports.

Is the only question how many schools sponsor a sport, or must an activity also have certain qualities and/or avoid certain “defects?”  What should an MHSAA tournament sport look like and stand for?

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.