In Addition to the Game

Earlier this week, Athletic Director Earl Dorber directed current sixth grade parents to “Be true to your school” when he spoke with them about upcoming opportunities for their children to represent Greenhill on the athletic field. Although Earl hoped that everyone in attendance would get the Beach Boys reference, he was confident that his message about the joys of interscholastic athletic competition would be heard.

As a parent and a perennial courtside cheerleader, I am sure that I had the final score in mind when I sat at all those years of tennis matches. You definitely want your kid and his/her team to win. But I’ve learned that it is really better to take the long view when considering middle and high school sports competition. Take time to reflect on the lessons of character that emerge from the competition, regardless of the final score.

Many of Greenhill’s coaches keep character front and center in their coaching plans. They are working with the whole child, and they know that sports routinely deliver lessons of character that will persist into adulthood. Varsity Football Coach Jeff Hollway names a performance principle and a theme for each week of the season. Qualities of friendship, loyalty, poise, confidence, respect, and excellence are all considered by Jeff to be important regardless of winning and losing. Jeff states that “special attention is given to the development of a lifetime value system applicable to every personal and professional endeavor.”

Head coaches from two different sports where repetitive practice of skills is required to compete, Greg Krauss and Heather Farlow both cite perseverance as a quality enhanced by athletic competition. Greg coaches Varsity Boys Soccer and Heather leads the Varsity Girls Field Hockey team. Greg notes that students at Greenhill are often superbly talented in academics, but it is in sports where they are pressed to persevere through struggles. Heather offers the following quotation: “Being challenged is inevitable … being defeated is optional.”

Jason Yaffe, Cross Country coach, prefers the term “grit.” Grit is the first cousin of determination, perseverance, and persistence. Only by steady development of these qualities can an athlete hope to get in that zone, where mental and physical effort join together to produce excellence of performance.

The concept of teamwork is cited by a number of our coaches. Keith Nannie, Head Boys Volleyball Coach, feels that “in order to find success, the group must find a way for all members to contribute. Knowing each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and levels of experience is a must.” Darryn Sandler, Girls Varsity Basketball Coach, states that respect for each other allows everyone to work “towards a common goal as you learn about commitment and dedication.”

Lisa Burton, Varsity Girls Softball Coach, values resilience. “Athletics are so unpredictable,” she states, “and so much can go wrong. Those athletes who can deal with adversity and be resilient seem to have so much emotional intelligence.” Jackie Ziegler, Chair of the Physical Education Department, names compassion and “learning how to win and lose with grace, caring, and humility.” And Paige Ashley, Varsity Girls Soccer Coach, also returns to one of Greenhill’s core values: “Those who have embraced respect as a key element of their character are more likely to demonstrate good sportsmanship – win or lose. Respect for teammates is also important. It requires athletes to make a commitment that often requires personal sacrifice but is important for the success of the team.”

Look at the list. These qualities are ones that all parents want for their children. They lead to productive work, fulfilling personal lives, and engaged citizenship. After you experience the ups and downs of the final outcome, stop to think about the long-term lessons of athletic competition. They transcend the competition itself.

In the next blog, Greenhill athletes themselves will speak.

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