Words from Down Under

February 1, 2013

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In the County Hotel, one of the few buildings in Napier, New Zealand, that survived the 1931 earthquake in that region, there is a library of books that have been left by previous travelers and may be exchanged for books of current travelers.  Among the books I found was Lord Cobham’s Speeches.  Lord Cobham was the Governor General of New Zealand from 1957 to 1962.

From his speech at the “Sportsmen Luncheon” in Wellington, NZ, 52 years ago today, I found these pearls:

  • “. . . sport is a great character-former; it teaches that self-control which must always precede self-expression, and that gracious acceptance of defeat is the gold to victory’s silver.”
  • “Sport is harmony, balance and rhythm, the triple heritage handed down from ancient Greece, without which art is barren and civilization itself out of joint.  Above all, the acquiring of a technique is increasingly important in an age when automation and the machine have robbed human beings of that sense of fulfillment that comes of fine craftsmanship.”
  • “Today we see the result of trying to hustle youth through childhood and adolescence into manhood and womanhood.  Education is one of the few things that cannot be hurried, although modern techniques may facilitate instruction, for which education is often mistaken . . .  In these instances, sport and games can and must play an increasingly important part in producing well-balanced citizens.  But before we do this, we must see to it that the games themselves don’t fall victims to the prevalent evils of selfishness, sharp practice and greed.”
  • “It is when the player of the game thinks himself greater than the game that both get into trouble.”

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.