One of the stated expectations of SCH’s Athletic Program is that athletes uphold the highest standards of sportsmanship, winning and losing with class and dignity. To support coaches and students as they strive to live into these expectations, the Athletic Program recently initiated a partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), made possible with funding from the Blue Devils Club.
PCA is a national non-profit that develops "Better Athletes, Better People" by providing positive, character-building sports experiences and training for youth and high school athletes. PCA's program combines the latest in sports psychology and education, as well as practical advice from top professional and college coaches and athletes. Its goal is to help improve athletic performance but also to ensure that kids take lessons from sports that will help them throughout the rest of their lives.
“While SCH has always placed a premium on positive culture and character building as part of our students’ sports experience, it’s important to revisit and clarify this culture from time to time and explore ways we can improve on what we’re doing,” explains Athletic Director Dave Wilson who has worked with PCA in the past.
“When coaches and players are able to offer feedback and hold each other accountable in a positive character-building manner, teams will have more success and camaraderie,” says Rick Knox, SCH’s football coach. “Having been at SCH for 17 years, I know that our programs already take this philosophy to heart. However, getting all of our coaches in one room [to share and discuss our culture and goals] only solidified this point and allowed us all to see how different programs make this practice a reality.”
Over the next two years, PCA will offer six workshops for coaches and students (JV and varsity). In August, Upper School head and assistant coaches participated in a two-hour workshop entitled "Developing the Triple-impact Competitor” which focused on how to improve oneself, one’s teammates, and the game as a whole. In early September, 50 students playing fall sports participated in a one-hour workshop entitled, “Becoming a Triple-Impact Competitor.” An additional 50 students, competing in winter and spring sports, will attend a workshop in early November.
“It was invigorating to be in a room full of coaches and hear ideas bounced around the room from all different sports,” reflects Ann Zalasky, girls’ cross-country coach. “For me, one of the key takeaways was to focus on what you can control. When an athlete or coach gets frustrated in a game/competition there are three things you can do: control your effort, focus on improvement, and take everything as a learning experience. Mistakes are ok. I also liked how the workshop focused on strategies for ‘Filling our Emotional Tanks.’ This is so important for young athletes, especially during COVID times. The main ways to accomplish this as a coach are to provide truthful and specific feedback, express appreciation for effort on and off the field, foster a sense of belonging and inclusion as a team, and always be a listening ear for athletes/students.”
Wilson says he’s pleased with how the first two workshops have gone. “Both the kids and the coaches got it; they understand how important this work is.” Asked what his goal is for the next two years, he says, “For the coaches, I hope they will be re-energized and pick up effective new ways to inspire and support their athletes. For our athletes, I hope they will learn important life skills, how to support their teammates, respect their opponents, and honor the sport they love. And for all of us, I hope that this partnership will lead to an even stronger focus on maintaining a positive athletic culture and realizing its potential to impact students for life in positive ways.”