History, by definition, is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs. History is a magnitude of information. It can be worldwide, within a country or local area. Often, the history that is forgotten is the kind that is not studied in social studies class. It is the local history that can be the most relational, but often is not discussed.
With the desire to build a strong foundation and a rich culture within school activity programs, it is time for activities directors to take a quest down memory lane.
Every activities program has a beginning. It is important to discover the first group of students who were involved in that activity. Sometimes, that information is not readily available. This is where the activities director begins the detective work.
Reach out to local people and find anyone who remembers details of that history. Take time to listen and take notes. Details may be discovered in a storage closet, or a box on a shelf. Sometimes, what is in the yearbook and what is remembered does not always match. Then, it is time to search for newspaper clippings. History is magical – the more you dig, the more you want to know.
The activities director should also spend time with the trophy cases – literally. Custodians can always dust, but touching each trophy gives a sense of understanding. Take some time to organize the trophy cases. Putting things in chronological order makes it all come to life. It also fills the gaps from information discovered previously from local people who remembered their own high school years.
Trophy cases are a great display opportunity; however, activities directors need to make a decision at some point as to what trophies stay and what trophies get boxed. Many trophies are put in boxes in faraway storage. Find those trophies, take a picture and create a digital display of all the school’s trophies.
Building a Rich Culture
It is the activities director’s job to relay the beginning to others. In a way, the goal is to promote the details of students who wanted to be a part of the activity. Connect the past to the future, bring honor to all who have partaken in the activity. Having connections builds a sense of pride. Now that the information is known, getting it “out there” is the challenge.
Just as a school markets itself with the school mascot, be purposeful in showing history. Banners in the gym for all activities (even non-athletic) let everyone know what is offered at the school. Many banners display the year that a championship was won. Activities with no championships will stand out, but also motivate the students to achieve, to be the first group in that activity with a championship.
Another key point is that the gymnasium is where the entire community gathers. If a date is missing or wrong, members of the community will let you know. The championship dates will be out of order, but adding a forgotten one gives that moment in time some value. This provides instant pride when community members enter your school.
An additional way to build a rich culture is to organize records for all activities. It is essential in building the programs to have some sort of historical goals. What team had the best record and what year? When was the last time the school beat this team? What was the speech given when she won the state championship? Details may seem frivolous, but it is how many people identify with themselves in relation to records. Display the records; let the public look and relate.
Hall of Fame
During this time, begin the process of creating a Hall of Fame. Create a committee to take this on. The activities director will lead, but the work will be on the committee to agree on a process and categories. The Hall of Fame is another way to achieve richness and pride within a school and community. In this way, the “forgotten” history is preserved for all to recognize and gives current students the vision of future goals.
Wait a Second . . .
The job of an activities director is huge and now the expectation is to be a detective, too? There is reasoning to this madness. Every activities director needs to reserve two hours a week for the “big picture” projects that will have long-term benefits. During the two hours reserved, no phone calls, no emails, no meetings (unless there is rain and you have to cancel a game). All of the focus is on the project. Take little steps. Start with a sport, or a year. Reserve the cleaning of the trophy case for school breaks, or do it during the day and request the help of students.
Getting students involved will allow them to take ownership and pride. If the activities director has a set time each week to work with students, it is more likely it will not get pushed off. Putting all of this information on a website is ideal. It saves it from future “boxed” or forgotten history. At no time is the expectation to “finish this project” quickly. This is ongoing and will take months.
In all seriousness, knowing the history of your school is so important. Taking time to understand the passion of each activity, the rich history and the struggles allows the activities to relate. It flags the programs that need a boost, that need attention. It makes the job of an activities director more meaningful, and more people will realize the activities director cares. The value of these created relationships will make the job of being an activities director easier and more trustworthy.
Lisa Myran-Schutte, CMAA, is the athletic/activities director at Pine Island (Minnesota) High School after serving in a similar capacity at Houston (Minnesota) High School for several years. She is a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.