December 26, 2012

If you and I were playing a game of, let’s say, a game of tennis, and I don’t try to win, and you defeat me, I’ve cheapened your victory.  And in cheapening your victory, I’ve been a poor sport.

Trying to win is a good thing.  Trying to win is a goal of school sports.  Trying in the best way, that is:  within the rules, with all our effort, and with grace, regardless of the outcome.

The most satisfying victory we can have in sports is defeating our best opponent on our opponent’s best day.

The least satisfying victory is against a weak opponent, or as a result of an opponent’s mistake, or an official’s bad call, or – worst of all – by our own cheating.

You want your best opponent on their best day.  You feel the best when you defeat the best, playing their best.

That’s ecstasy in sports.  There is no better feeling in sports.

Don’t mistake anything I ever write to mean I don’t care about winning.  I really do.  And I care that it has real value.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on 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.