A basic premise of education-based athletics is that winning is not the only or ultimate objective. Instead, the growth and development – and this does not mean sport-specific skills – of student-athletes is the most important goal. This pursuit would include gaining lifelong values and qualities such as sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork, perseverance, humility, commitment and many others.
However, there is a problem. If wins and championships are not the ultimate objective, how do you measure success in educationbased athletics? Teachers in the classroom, for example, use assessments
to determine how much and what students learn. They use tests, reports, essays, presentations, projects and other techniques.
What assessments should be used in athletics to support the concept that it has educational value? This effort or process of documentation and measurement is a vital step to explain to parents, upper-level administrators and the community why a school’s athletic program is successful. School leaders need to provide concrete, verifiable, substantiated results to support the education-based athletics model.
The following are some forms of assessment or verifiable aspects that should be considered to measure the success of a school’s athletic program.
Leadership. While leadership can be somewhat of an abstract concept in which it is difficult to measure individual gains, activities and efforts that afford student-athletes with opportunities to develop this skill can be documented. For example, some schools host a leadership summit or workshop. Student-athletes can also be encouraged to take the NFHS Captains Course, which is an excellent resource, and documentation can be obtained with regard to how many students complete the course.
Sportsmanship. Many state associations and leagues honor teams that demonstrate outstanding sportsmanship at the end of a season. While schools should prominently display these banners, positive examples of sportsmanship can also be posted and highlighted on the school’s website and in various publications. Everyone will be aware of negative incidents involving sportsmanship; however, if positive examples of sportsmanship are highlighted schools have a powerful tool to substantiate the value of education-based athletics.
Team Community Service Projects. These efforts provide assistance to a group or cause, and can be a valuable lesson of giving and being part of something bigger than individual goals. Schools can share, document and also rank the department’s efforts year-to-year. Community service projects should be a very visible, positive example of success and one that schools use on a regular basis.
Student-athlete GPA Academic Awards. If the state association, county or league sponsors student-athlete academic awards based upon a qualifying grade-point average, this is a great way for schools to substantiate that their student-athletes are succeeding in the classroom. School leaders can use the number of student-athletes who earn the award and compare it to previous years and even other schools to demonstrate that their program has improved and does excel academically.
Participation Rate. The number of students who participate in a school athletic program reveals a great deal and it is another verifiable aspect that should be used. While some might argue that young people are
more likely to be a member of a winning team, a survey of athletes will likely reveal that they participate because they enjoy being with their friends in a positive learning environment. When a school’s teams are
filled to capacity and offer every sport and team level possible, success has occurred regardless of the seasonal win-loss records.
Attendance Rates. It has been documented in national studies that athletes during their season have better attendance rates. Schools should use their own data to illustrate this aspect and then post the results. While these statistics sometimes are taken for granted, they are extremely important to demonstrate the value of education-based athletics.
NFHS Coaching Certification. When coaches earn their Accredited Interscholastic Coach or Certified Interscholastic Coach certification from the NFHS, this indicates that they are serious about their profession. The courses provide a foundation for education-based athletics and coaches should have a better appreciation and understanding of the concept upon completion. And, of course, schools can easily validate how many of their coaches have earned their national certifications.
Testimonials by Graduates. Former athletes who go on to successful careers present a great opportunity to substantiate the qualities and values gained by participating in an education-based program. This does not mean focusing on their college athletic careers as starters or leading scorers, but rather on how they developed leadership, sportsmanship, perseverance and other skills during their high school experience – and how these qualities helped them in real life. These testimonials can be extremely powerful.
These are all definite forms of measurement and verifiable aspects of education-based athletics that can be used; however, the next step is to share this information with the community and other constituents. After all, teachers record grades and schools issue report cards several times a year. Leaders of school athletics programs should do the same.
It is not good enough to simply have this valuable information; schools have to use it to promote education-based athletics. How? Post articles, illustrative photos and additional links on the school’s website and department Facebook page. Send press releases and write articles for use in the neighborhood newspaper, and to be aired on local radio and television stations.
Success in education-based athletics should not ultimately be measured by wins or championships. Therefore, it is up to school leaders to define that success and provide the method to determine it.
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 500 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.