Academics & Athletics-Making them Work Together

By: Micah Hughes, Intermediate Social Studies, Intermediate Basketball Coach, Assistant Varsity Football Coach

“Sports build good habits, confidence, and discipline. They make players into community leaders and teach them how to strive for a goal, handle mistakes, and cherish growth opportunities.” Julie Foudy.

I have always thought academics and athletics go hand in hand. I have coached multiple sports for many years, and the goals I have helped my students establish in the classroom are the same goals I carry onto the athletic field. I oftentimes think academics and athletics are viewed with preconceived biases: academics having qualities that are lacking in athletics. In reality, they are similar in the goals and lessons they teach. It requires the collaborative effort of both teachers and coaches to highlight the advantages these two disciplines can provide when focused on acquiring a knowledge base and skill set to accomplish an established goal.  So often I hear people say, “Oh, he’s just an athlete.” This disparaging remark implies that the athlete is limited in his/her capacities beyond the game field. We need to view students holistically and help them develop their gifts and talents, whether in the classroom or on the field. We know from a statistical standpoint that the majority of athletes will not advance to the next level professionally, and if they do, it will not be a lifelong career. This is why it is important to teach students to strive for worthy goals in whatever their life endeavors they might be. This mindset will ensure a successful future.
Academics and athletics support one another. They both have goals that are predetermined and are achievable. They both require hard work and perseverance. They both reap the rewards of social recognition and personal satisfaction. To be a well-rounded Renaissance man or women, academics and sports provide the opportunities to showcase the potential that individuals are capable of accomplishing.

Team Culture

By: Carrie Daniels, Varsity Girls Basketball Coach

Building a positive culture within your sports team is vital to the success of the players and team.  At the forefront of developing the culture of any team is the coach.  The coach has the task of not only motivating his/her athletes but also keeping them motivated.  If players are motivated, they will develop a greater passion for their respective sport and in turn want to get better and give the team 110%.  One of the most important aspects for the coach to achieve this is to show the athletes they care.  We’ve all heard the phrase “they would run through a brick wall.”  This phrase coincides with the athlete’s knowing their coach truly cares for them.  When the culture is one of positive nature and caring, those athletes will be willing to run through a brick wall.  As well as motivating and caring, a coach must have positive energy.  When the coach comes in to practice or a game with positive energy, the athletes feed off of that.  Successful teams that have bought in take on the personality of their coach.  If a coach is nonchalant then more than likely the team will play with a nonchalant, attitude.  If a coach is excited, inspired, and vocal, then teams tend to follow suit of that coach.

So many things go in to creating and maintaining a positive culture within a team and program.  To attain success, a team must set goals and throughout the season, check back to see progress and how many goals have been met.  There must be respect not only for the coach, but between players as well.  When a team builds up trust between the coaches and players, the sky is the limit with what can be achieved.  Coaches also can build a positive environment and culture by communicating with their players.  Players need and want to know where they stand, what their role is on the team, and what the expectations are.  The only way for players to fully grasp this is for the coach to be clear and concise with communication.  Once a player is aware of his/her role and expectations, they have a responsibility to do everything within their talent to compete and uphold their role on the team.

When working with a team, it is a given that players tend to hang on to the criticism given by a coach.  A coach can be instructing and giving constructive criticism but in the minds of these young athletes they tend to hang on to that or view it as negative.  In turn as coaches, we must make sure for every “what is considered negative” comment, we give two positive comments or praise to off set.  Players need to realize when they are not doing something correctly it will be addressed and pointed out so they can work on it correctly.  Just as when a player is doing something correct, the coach, as motivation and encouragement, should point it out.  Giving praise and encouragement is a motivating factor to work that much harder and do even better.  Pointing out the good things and when something is done correctly enhances a positive environment and culture.

It is also important to create team chemistry.  All players are not going to be the best of friends, but having chemistry and being on the same page means so much to the success of a program.  Players should have a mentality that they have their teammate’s back and know their teammates have their back.  One way to help with the chemistry is team-building activities.  Players can learn to trust and believe in each other during these exercises. Spending time with your team outside of practice is also important.  A coach can be an influencer in this and set up activities in hopes that eventually the team will take it upon themselves to set up team outings.  It is at this time that you know you have great chemistry and a positive culture.

With all of these ideas, it is still important to remember we are dealing with young athletes that are learning so much about themselves and life.  It is not always going to be perfect and every team has its issues and drama from time to time.  However, with a coach that builds a positive environment and culture it becomes easier to deal with the issues that arise and the players are more apt to know how to handle them.  Being a part of a team affords these athletes the opportunity to be a part of something so special and to learn so many life lessons that are far bigger than the sport itself.



Fitness & Weight Training

By: John Crosby, Fitness Instructor

At the high school level, the importance of fitness training through use of the weight room should be strongly emphasized.  Fitness classes offered to students in grades 8-12 is a strong trend in education today. Many classes are in session 5 days a week, with an emphasis on weight training 4 of those days, separated by an active recovery day in the middle. Several scientific studies in recent years support the idea that fitness groups during the school day can greatly enhance the learning abilities of a student in the classroom. Alongside this, athletes see great improvement on a weekly basis for their respective sports. 

The first thing that is emphasized in weight training classes is safety. Students are taught the importance of correct exercise form, as well as weight room etiquette. Once these practices are effectively managed, students will demonstrate the ability to warm-up the body through pre-workout exercises. These exercises are done for both short term and long term injury prevention. For example, rotator cuff strengthening is a point of emphasis for upper body days that involve pressing from the chest and shoulders. Active dynamic warmup exercises are done at the beginning of each workout as a way to prepare the body to be at its best for the workout to come. 

Once the workout is in session,  a goal should be to improve several aspects of the student’s performance. These include, muscular strength, muscular endurance, explosion, mobility and flexibility. Some workouts are more focused on a strength building/ low repetition approach, while others are primarily focused on a high repetition/ endurance approach. There is an equal amount of targeting the anterior chain, as well as the posterior chain of the body. Each student should be pushed to reach their full physical potential regardless of the focal point on a given day.  

The end goal of a fitness department at any academic institution is to teach and promote how to live a healthy/active lifestyle after high school. If a student can take any of the ideas that are taught during their time in a fitness class and apply them to their life outside of school, then the instructor’s goal has been accomplished. 

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