By Kim Monkres, UHSAA Assistant Director
Photo by Shane Marshall
It does not take long to get the feel for the culture of a school. Is it positive and supportive? Is it negative and full of contention? Oftentimes this feeling is evident upon walking through the front doors.
Creating a positive culture takes collaboration between school administrators, coaches, parents, officials and student-athletes. Understanding and appreciating the role that each plays in the overall success of high school activities is paramount, and sets the tone for a supportive and positive experience for everyone.
When the roles become blurred, the tone can quickly take a turn for the worse. High school programs are not successful by pure luck. Countless hours are contributed by the various entities who believe in the positive impact of education-based athletics. Administrators, coaches, parents, officials and the student-athletes all contribute to the culture of athletics. Defining and setting expectations for each of these roles can assist in setting the tone for a great year.
Administrators can be proactive in heading off potential problems by defining the roles and expectations for coaches, parents and student-athletes before the season begins. What is acceptable, or not acceptable, can be communicated at parent/player orientation meetings.
Surrounding student-athletes with coaches who are devoted to the vision of the athletic program, and who are committed to preparing student-athletes for life beyond athletics, is a vital step in creating a constructive and rewarding experience.
Coaches have the day-to-day interaction with the student-athletes. Many may believe that a coach’s responsibility is to prepare the team to win; however, with this mentality, many of life’s lessons will not be taught to, or more importantly learned by, the student-athletes.
Coaches have the responsibility to be prepared with knowledge of the sport and a game plan, but to also teach important characteristics such as sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, equality and leadership, just to name a few. These characteristics can be taught in victory and defeat. The coach’s actions, through the good times and the bad, definitely sets the tone for the team, the contests and the season.
A Parent’s Role
However, a coach is not in this alone. Parents can also play a positive role in educating the student-athletes. Parents should be prepared to support not only their own son or daughter, but the entire team and coach.
Criticism of coaches, officials and other athletes should be replaced with positive affirmations and cheers for their own team. A positive attitude and a helping hand to the program contributes to the team’s success. While coaches teach the above-mentioned characteristics on the field, a parent can continue this character education in the home.
Officials can often be seen as the “bad guys” or the ones that keep a team from reaching the ultimate goal of winning. Officials are an integral part of the game, and play an important role. They should be examples of professionalism, fairness and expert knowledge of the game. At the same time, they should display excitement and enthusiasm for what they do.
Their example to the student-athletes is just as important as a coach or parent. The expertise they bring to the game is essential, and whether a good call or a bad call is made, coaches and parents can have a huge impact on modeling appropriate behavior when the ball may not bounce your way, so to speak.
So what is the role of the student-athlete? Being involved in athletics requires dedication, preparedness, a positive attitude, a willingness to support coaches and other players and a commitment to a we-not-me mentality. The student-athlete should harbor a sense of pride in contributing to the school, but also be humble and grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Often, the local high school teams are the hometown heroes. Being involved in the activities of the school is a great way to show community pride and to provide service to those who provide unwavering support to the school.
At the conclusion of the school day, many gyms and fields are busy with practicing athletic teams. This must not be merely a practice of athletic skills, but an extension of the school day where teaching life skills continues to be the focus.