Elevating the Message of Education-Based Athletics

August 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Provincial and Territorial News

From: SASKATCHEWAN HIGH SCHOOLS ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION  NEWSLETTER                                                                September 2017 Page 11

Elevating the Message of Education-Based Athletics

Volume 43, Number 4 – Summer 2017 Publication: Interscholastic Athletic Administration

By: Bruce Brown, CMAA

For those in the profession of interscholastic athletics, the constant scrutiny of coaches, pressures to achieve and maintain championship-caliber programs, and the ability to appropriately fund and enhance student opportunities through sport can be overwhelming. To complicate those challenges, community pressure to demonstrate accountability and the reasons to sustain such programming is continually argued.

Without question, sports culture has changed over time. Values learned as by-products of sport participation can no longer be presumed as understood by all members of the sport team “family”. As much as interscholastic, education-based athletics programs are vastly different in their goals and purpose than youth, club and privatized sport organizations (along with college and professional sports), the sports community (parents, communities, media) often view all of these sport teams and coaches as having the same vision and objectives.

The greatest challenge for interscholastic athletics leaders is to realize the essential role they have to provide influence and impact upon our vested audiences. The INTENTIONAL effort to inform, teach and reinforce the mission of sports taught within the educational systems has become a crucial mandate for athletic administrators and schools to convey to their stakeholders. As tricky as the mission may appear to be, it comes down to administrators “un-muddying the waters” to best shift the culture.

The good news is there continues to be significant indicators of message shifts and appropriate dialogue taking place. Influential persons (professional athletes, high-profile coaches) are beginning to speak very clearly about the importance of multi-sport participation among youth and secondary school students. Business analysts, like Forbes, are citing the critical impact that participation in school sports and extracurricular activities have had upon top-ranked business leadership persons. Long-term studies clearly demonstrate the positive effects upon grades, attendance, general achievement and the long-term personal health of participants in interscholastic athletic programs.

However, the “re-educating” of our sports culture will not occur through intellectual osmosis! Like any educational process, there must be deliberate and purposeful training opportunities in play; a lesson plan of action for moving the education-based athletics mission. Ultimately, the ability for each member school to share a similar understanding of the purpose and mission of interscholastic athletics benefits all schools.

The collective ability to share resources and successful training experiences can strengthen athletic administrators’ roles as education-based athletics leaders.

Some ideas to start the local “re-educating” process:

• Reinforce COACH EDUCATION: Not only ensure that all interscholastic coaches have the required certification, but also look at ways to enhance and broaden the scope of training your coaches are receiving. One best practice is to engage your coaches with the NFHS Coach Education courses and national certification. Visit to learn more about the many free and low-cost course opportunities.

• Share data which reinforces benefits of education-based athletics participation: One of the benefits of the multitude of social media outlets is the vast supply of articles, blogs and data that can be shared. Share articles and relevant support information to stake holders: parents, coaches, students, administrators, media, athletic department website, community forums, etc.

• Ensure that coaches “speak the same language”: Often, athletic administrators assume that everyone, including their own coaches, “get it” when it comes to expectations and objectives of an athletic department. Consider opportunities (staff meetings, social get-togethers, newsletters, etc.) that provide the platform to encourage and clarify the expected outcomes and philosophy of an athletic program.

• Work Education-based messages into parent communications: Whether it be pre-season parent meetings or other speaking engagements, athletic administrators have an advantage in promoting the education-based message. As with anyone who truly believes in the purpose of their vocation, a consistent message, delivered repeatedly and clearly, can alter beliefs.

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