What We’ve Learned

July 12, 2017

Here’s some of what we’ve learned from the first two years of having all Michigan High School Athletic Association member high schools report suspected concussions and make follow-up reports for each.

First and foremost, concussions are of concern beyond football and boys. While football – the highest participation sport – has had the most concussions, the sports that follow are girls basketball (second) and girls soccer (third).

Which leads to the second lesson: Girls report two to three times as many concussions as boys in basketball and soccer, as well as in softball compared to baseball.

Which leads to the third lesson: Whether girls actually experience more concussions than boys or are more forthcoming than boys in reporting suspected concussions, coaches need to coach and communicate with females differently than males; and coach educators must prepare coaches to interact differently with boys and girls.

We’ve also learned that more than 80 percent of concussions caused the athlete to be withheld from activity for six days or longer; and again, there was a tendency to withhold girls longer than boys. In any event, the data suggests that people are taking concussions seriously and not rushing students back into practices or contests.

The data also reveals that more than two-thirds of reported concussions arise from competition, and less than one-third occur during the many longer hours of practice. This is a reversal of the data we were provided a decade ago based on smaller samplings from other states; and this suggests that coaches are finding ways to teach skills and conduct drills without requiring as much player-to-player contact as in the past.

That’s good news. But we’ve also learned from the first two years of data that there is still more to research, more to learn and more to do to make our good games even better.

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.