Who’s Listening?

August 1, 2014

In an organization as diverse as this one, including that some schools are located more than a 10-hour drive from others and some schools are 100 times larger than others, differences of opinion about policies, procedures and programs are inevitable – and so are complaints about the decisions the organization makes.

One of the criticisms that decision-makers can count on from constituents is that they don’t listen well to or consult adequately with those affected by their decisions. Generally, such criticism comes from those who favored a different decision. They complain about the process when it’s really the result of the process that bothers them.

From where I sit, sometimes the target of such criticism, I often wonder if the pot is calling the kettle black. I wonder if the critics are listening attentively or at all to their own constituents. For example: 

  • While a significant minority of school administrators complain of the burdens of the MHSAA’s increasing requirements for coaches education focused on health and safety, nearly 100 percent of their parents want even more than the MHSAA is mandating – they want what we’re requiring sooner than we are requiring it, and they want even more required.
  • While it’s only slightly more than half of school administrators who want the MHSAA’s role and authority to begin before the 7th grade and want schools running those younger grade level sports programs, nearly 100 percent of students and their parents want these things to happen, and they have for a long time.

When I bring these two topics up to students or speak to local parent groups or county school board associations, I can count on getting an earful of impatient suggestions.

So while some school administrators might complain that the MHSAA isn’t listening well enough to them, I wonder if those critics are listening well enough to their own constituents.

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.