When Seasons Matter

April 6, 2018

There are people who want to fuss with Michigan High School Athletic Association tournament structures because, they say, they “want the regular season to mean something.” We need to guard against that thinking and such talk.

In school sports done right, the regular season always means something, even for a team which loses every game.

In school sports done right, practice means even more, because coaches and athletes interact in practice far more than games.

People who want to provide tournament postseason perks to teams which win more games than others are likely to reward the wrong things, like the teams that gathered transfers from other schools.

They are likely to miss the right things, like the teams that started slowly but improved over a truly meaningful season of practices and contests.

They are likely to miss the fact that some teams lost key players due to ineligibility or injury or gained them late in a season and where, in either case, team records are not a meaningful measure of the season.

Let’s not be fooled. Let’s not be trapped in the mindset of sport models that are more about business than education.

Gerrymandering postseason tournaments does more to undermine the integrity of the postseason than honor the regular season.

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.