On April 1, the NFHS officially launched the NFHS School Honor Roll, a national recognition program designed to promote professional development for high school and middle school coaches through the completion of specific NFHS Learning Center courses.
Since then, 43 schools from around the country have earned a place on the NFHS School Honor Roll, which requires 90 percent of a school’s coaches to complete four courses – “Concussion in Sports,” “Fundamentals of Coaching,” “Protecting Students from Abuse” and “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” – to achieve Level 1. Coaches must complete four additional courses for Level 2 and five more for Level 3.
In terms of state-by-state representation on the School Honor Roll, North Carolina has separated itself from the others in exemplary fashion, boasting 37 – more than 86 percent – of the qualifying schools. All 37 schools have completed the Level 1 course circuit and will receive large display banners commemorating their achievements.
Additionally, the Tar Heel State is home to the first middle school to complete the Level 2 series, Mac Williams Middle School in Fayetteville. In earning Level 2 status, more than 90 percent of the coaches at Mac Williams completed courses that pertain specifically to sports they coach, along with “First Aid, Health and Safety,” “Heat Illness Prevention” and “Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.” Mac Williams and Tacony Academy Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were the first two schools to reach Level 2 and received their acceptance letters on the same day.
“North Carolina has really embraced the Learning Center and coaches education for years,” said Dan Schuster, NFHS director of educational services. “There are many schools and coaches there that have already been involved with professional development for a long time, and now, they’re getting the opportunity to hang a banner that signifies the great work that they’ve done.”
“The (North Carolina High School Athletic Association) (NCHSAA) believes that coaches are teachers in the athletic venue,” said Que Tucker, commissioner of the NCHSAA. “Towards that end, we stress to our athletic personnel the importance and benefit of professional development. When coaches ‘walk the talk’ – taking classes, studying and becoming certified – students are more inclined to value education and work harder in the classroom.”
Mac Williams Middle School is part of Cumberland County Schools (CCS), which has been a prominent catalyst in North Carolina’s Honor Roll success. At the behest of CCS superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., all 24 schools in the district completed the Level 1 curriculum and currently account for almost two-thirds of the state’s qualifiers.
The other 23 CCS schools responsible for this remarkable district-wide effort are Gray’s Creek High School, John Griffin Middle School, Pine Forest Middle School, Pine Forest High School, South View Middle School, Hope Mills Middle School, Spring Lake Middle School, Anne Chesnutt Middle School, Seventy-First High School, Westover High School, Gray’s Creek Middle School, Westover Middle School, New Century International Middle School, Terry Sanford High School, Douglas Byrd High School, Douglas Byrd Middle School, Lewis Chapel Middle School, Luther Nick Jeralds Middle School, South View High School, Jack Britt High School, Max Abbott Middle School, E.E. Smith High School and Cape Fear High School.
“I commend our coaches for taking advantage of the top-notch professional development provided through NFHS – our students are the ultimate beneficiaries,” Connelly said. “We are committed to providing our coaches with professional learning opportunities and will continue to encourage them to participate in these offerings. In our school system, we are focused on providing students with equitable access to engaging learning that prepares them to be collaborative, competitive and successful in our global world. Athletics are an important part of our students’ educational experience, serving as an extension of the classroom and helping our students learn important life skills.”
“We are so proud of Cumberland County for embracing the NFHS School Honor Roll program,” Tucker said. “We commend the coaches for their commitment to taking courses and becoming better teachers and coaches. And a special thank-you to principals, athletic directors and central office administrators for their encouragement and support of this effort!”
The momentum generated by CCS has started to catch on in another district in the state, as six schools in the Wake County Public School System – Holly Springs High School, Green Level High School, Heritage High School, Wake Forest High School, Green Hope High School and Carroll Middle School – have joined the ranks of the School Honor Roll at Level 1.
The remaining seven Honor Roll schools spread across the state are Hunt High School of Wilson County Schools, Durham School of the Arts of Durham Public Schools, Nash Central High School of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, Elkin High School of Elkin City Schools, Mount Pleasant High School of Cabarrus County Schools, Pender High School of Pender County Schools and Ashe County High School of Ashe County Schools.
As the number of states with at least one school on the NFHS School Honor Roll continues to rise, Schuster is hopeful the commitment to coaches education modeled in North Carolina is emulated nationwide.
“We all have a healthy amount of competitiveness in us,” he said. “Athletic directors from across the country are watching and they see what schools in North Carolina are doing, and we know many of them are thinking, ‘we’re going to do that, too, because no one wants to be behind.’ We want everyone to be a part of this because it’s best for our kids.”
Nate Perry is coordinator of media relations at the National Federation of State High School Associations.