Most athletic competitions end with a winner and a loser. So, how is success measured in school-based athletics? Is it the final result of a competition? How did each team or athlete grow throughout the season? Are the student-athletes having a positive experience? Were life-long relationships with teammates and coaches developed?
Responses to the questions above would all seem to be reasonable in measuring the success of these programs but ultimately it is about developing young men and women into productive members of society. Look 5-10 years into the future: are they good mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and community members? Do they serve the communities and people where they live? If the answer to these two questions is “yes” then we have made an impact.
Here are 5 Ways to Ignite Your Athletic Program:
1. Don’t just have a Mission, BE ON A MISSION
Mission statements are important. Most businesses, schools and athletic teams have them. They are posted around campus and occasionally discussed with members of each program. But is this enough? We need to be intentional with our program’s mission. Words do not ignite an athletic program; the people, purpose, and actions behind those words bring them to life.
Set Goals, Develop Relationships, Focus on the Process, Provide Clarity, Bring Energy, Be Relentless, Have a Growth Mindset, Reflect, Ask for Help, Teach Perseverance, Show that Positivity is Contagious, and Repeat! “Student-athletes need a model to see not a motto to hear,” (Brian Cain, 2015). Investing time to teach behavior skills through sport allows athletes to develop habits towards future success.
2. DEVELOP COMMON CORE VALUES
Core values identify who we are and how we should interact with others. Integrating common values throughout your athletic program aligns all athletes in the pursuit of a common purpose. These values must be a direct reflection of your school’s desired culture, as well as your community’s. Imagine an athletic program where shared values are common amongst all teams. For example, in our program, every Monday is “Family Day” where we have team discussions on the importance of coming together as a family and being unconditionally committed to each other. This encourages connection and communication amongst the team. Over the course of a 12-week season, we see maximum growth by creating this intentional focus. By the time they are juniors and seniors, these athletes are leading by example and showing underclassmen how to be invested in our FALCON FAMILY. Continuous weekly repetition accelerates growth for each athlete. This consistency develops confidence in themselves and each other! FALCON Core Values displayed above.
3. PROCESS OVER OUTCOME
Society is saturated with the mindset of instant gratification and results. For example, worrying about the outcome of your at-bat takes away the focus on each pitch. Being able to focus on each pitch gives the batter the best opportunity for success.
It is critical for athletes to be “in the present” if they want to perform their best when it means the most. Processes and routines generate present moment focus. Breathing techniques and mental imagery are useful methods to help successfully transition back into the present. Performing these routines during practice and competition enables athletes to do just that.
Once these are engrained through continuous repetition, athletes tend to have better control of themselves. Achieving high levels of success takes consistent effort over a long period.
TODAY + TODAY + TODAY = YOUR CAREER
4. ENCOURAGE, GUIDE AND GIVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ATHLETES TO SERVE THEIR SCHOOL & COMMUNITY
Community members tend to support athletic programs unconditionally. They vote for levies, attend competitions, fundraise and show school spirit regardless of outcomes. Athletes need to be aware of this support and learn not only to be appreciative but to pay it forward in giving back to their community. Athletic programs can serve in various ways. Encouraging, guiding and providing these service opportunities is imperative. How are you modeling and teaching an “Attitude of Gratitude?”
5. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES
Celebrate all successes. Big or small. Individual or team. Recognition creates Momentum! Momentum creates Energy! Energy is Contagious!
Athletics continue to generate an enormous platform for youth today. We must utilize this platform to develop student-athletes of high character while giving them the necessary tools to be successful in whatever endeavors they choose to pursue. Make an impact that lasts a lifetime, not just this season.
In an effort to express gratitude, have your athletic team complete a service project for each sport season.
Call or text a former coach, thank them for molding you into a better person. Let them know the character trait that has helped you become a better person, parent employee and/or community member.
Eric Davis is a former High School Athletic Director of 12 years beginning a new role as an Assistant Principal at Chief Jo Middle School in Richland, Washington. Working to create a positive school culture through continuous character and selfless leadership development is his passion.