Currey Ingram Blog

3 Life Skills Athletics Foster

Posted by Kelly Fish, CMAA, Director of Athletics on Sep 4, 2019 8:19:58 AM

A 2019 graduate recently reached out with a message to one of our coaches, "How you coached us went way beyond the court. I just wanted to say thank you. Trust me, your life lessons have stuck with me." This speaks volumes to the impact coaches can have on student-athletes long after the students have left our athletic fields.  Currey Ingram is committed to the positive impact of an educational-based interscholastic athletic program.

We define educational-based athletics as an athletic program that can provide students with growth that will sustain them well beyond physical skill development and knowledge of a game, provide growth opportunities that leads to positive transformation, and connect student-athletes to caring adults in their educational environment. Ultimately, the goal in athletics is to win, but the purpose is greater than the outcome on the scoreboard. We want our athletic program to be co-curricular, not just extra-curricular. Athletics is an extension of the classroom at Currey Ingram Academy.

Commitment to Character.  This year, our athletic theme for the year, ALL IN, embraces our commitment to educational-based athletics. Each week during the season, every coach, on every team, in Middle and Upper School sports, will feature a character trait of the week from our athletic mission statement.  With all teams discussing the same trait (respect, preparedness, teamwork, loyalty, work ethic, pride, sportsmanship, and honesty) in their unique and developmentally appropriate way, as it applies to their team or sport, every student-athlete will be able to finish their season with a better understanding of how character impacts sport.

Commitment to Social Emotional Learning.  SEL is an all-school initiative that doesn't stop with school dismissal.  Athletics is a great learning ground for SEL. Many students enter after-school activities in a vulnerable state -- tired, hungry, mentally and physically tired, and socially amped to spend time with peers. In this time, they're asked to focus, perform, navigate relationships, and persevere. 

Imagine tennis as an example.  Students are competing against an opponent, often individually, with very little on-court coaching permitted, while being their own referee of lines, personal scorekeeper, and navigator of etiquette on the court.  There are no timeouts or substitutions and few and limited breaks to reset.  At the same time, their peers are playing around them, parents and fans are watching closely and cheering, and all the factors of an outside sport -- weather and distractions -- are at play.  Our coaches are equipped to teach emotional regulation through this and take great pride in modeling social-emotional competence in practice, so students feel prepared in those moments in competition.

Commitment to Executive Functioning.  Another all-school initiative is the development of executive function skills.  I often paint the picture of a Middle School locker room to help others understand how EF skills apply to athletics.  Our Middle School students rush from school dismissal to the locker room with their teammates and coaches.  They are typically carrying multiple bags and the atmosphere is hectic -- students buzzing around them to get to a carline or the bus, teachers reminding them not to forget tomorrow's assignment. 

By the time they get to the locker room, organized and focused are likely the last thing they feel!  Then, they must unpack, change, and repack.  At the same time, social interactions are taking place and coaches are hurrying them to get to their practice location. Organizing, multi-step processes, focus, prioritizing, self-monitoring, regulating of emotions, and other EF skills are not only being challenged, but all required at one time.  Our coaches focus on being intentional about helping students navigate that moment to build skills that will help them be better students and employees as they grow and mature.

Creating the culture for an educational-based athletic program requires support and intentionality.  At Currey Ingram Academy, the culture fosters athletics as a co-curricular program, understanding the educational-based model and purpose so that all students have the opportunity to learn and develop life-long skills through sport.

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