For athletic administrators who embrace education-based athletics and direct their program using this philosophy, they may not consider that there are some community members who do not understand the purpose and value of this concept. Many parents, for example, may have grown up with the approach that winning is the only or ultimate objective of athletics. These individuals simply have no other frame of reference.
Beginning with their own school years, parents have seen the examples set by professional and major college sports that winning is the only measure of success. Times have changed, however, and high school athletics are and should be different. There has to be educational value connected to interscholastic athletics – this distinguishes it from the other levels and providers of sports.
The challenge for athletic administrators, therefore, is to educate mom and dad with respect to the philosophy of education-based athletics. It cannot be taken for granted that they understand the purpose and value of this concept. A proactive, educational effort has to be undertaken and this endeavor has to be ongoing since a new group of parents join your program every year.
As with many aspects of athletics and education, explaining this vital concept of education-based athletics comes down to communication, and it can’t occur casually. An athletic administrator needs to plan and create a definite, concrete initiative because without the understanding and support from parents, unrealistic expectations and potential problems will arise.
What can an athletic administrator do to help parents understand the concept, value and importance of education-based athletics? The following ideas should help.
• Take time at preseason parents meetings to highlight some of the aspects and the basic premise of this philosophy. Admittedly, this presentation would have to be highly organized and concise due to the time constraints, but this is the ideal setting to get started in your quest for better understanding.
• Post articles – after obtaining permission from the publisher – on your website that promote the concept of education-based athletics. Even though you may have used the same explanation and approach taken in an article to explain the concept, it is often extremely helpful for parents to hear the message from another voice.
• Use teachable moments with parents just as coaches do with their student-athletes. When a situation arises with one of your teams or program, use it as an example to explain the value and purpose of education-based athletics. Just about every topic, problem or concern can and should be used. They are all opportunities with which to engage the parents of your athletes.
• Create your own documents and articles to explain the various features of your program that encompass the education-based athletics philosophy. For example, explain the purpose of junior varsity teams and why exhibiting sportsmanship and serving as a role model are essential for your athletes and coaches. The possibilities for articles and explanations are unlimited, and they definitely can and should fit your unique setting.
• Don’t forget to encourage parents to take the NFHS Coach Education courses – especially the free ones. For example, the Positive Sport Parenting and Sportsmanship courses would be a good starting point. These courses are available online at www.nfhslearn.com. Another helpful presentation is The Case for High School Activities, which is also available online at www.nfhs.org. There are other excellent resources available through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (www.niaaa.org).
• Also use other school and community meetings to spread the word about education-based athletics. The parents of your athletes will also attend Parent-Teacher Association, Booster Club and community-based Rotary Club meetings – to name a few. Each one of these gatherings represents another opportunity to explain the concept and to reinforce and convert parents to this vital philosophy.
• Always frame your responses and explanations during one-on-one conversations with parents to include the basis and value of education-based athletics. Usually, meetings with individual parents occur due to a concern or a problem and part of the answer may very well revolve around these guiding principles.
• Kick off award banquets, end-of-year review reports to the school board and all other functions by emphasizing the benchmarks that measure success in education-based athletics instead of starting with the number of championships that were won during the year. This subtle change in the typical approach that an athletic administrator might take is vital to complete the education of parents.
• Have your former student-athletes explain how and why their high school athletic experience helped them to become successful in life. These presentations and articles posted on your websites should focus on college academic and professional success – not athletic accomplishments on the collegiate level. Athletics does provide life-long qualities and values – use known examples to promote this fact!
In order to effectively reach the parents of athletes, an athletic administrator should consider using all of these various techniques and not simply relying on one or two of them. Variety and reinforcement is often the real key to success.
However, regardless of which approaches and vehicles you use to spread the word with your parents, your daily efforts of conducting the business of the athletic program says a lot. Your planning, decisions and all details surrounding your program give evidence to your support and belief in education-based athletics. Actions do speak louder than words.
When the parents of athletes understand the purpose and value of education-based athletics, you should have fewer problems and many more enjoyable moments within your program. As an athletic administrator, you do set the standards, tone and direction for the program, and these can and do influence and guide the parents of your athletes. Isn’t it time to explain this vital concept to your parents?
Dr. David Hoch is a former athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple (Pennsylvania) University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 450 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. He is the author of a new book entitled Blueprint for Better Coaching. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.