You have probably read recently that Portage Township Schools is committed to helping students build developmental assets. These assets have a direct link to a student’s success in school and his future. Looking over the 40 assets, it is apparent that so many of them can be developed through the participation in athletics through encouragement, teaching, and modeling by our coaches. At PHS, we have incorporated the developmental assets in our athletic department.
In these difficult economic times, there has been talk about cutting athletic programs or charging athletes to play. I am here to say that athletics provide so much for our youth, that we cannot afford to cut them. The developmental assets are divided into two groups – external and internal assets. I believe that many of the external developmental assets are built without the conscience effort of our coaches. That is not to say that they do not think about what they are doing, but the sheer nature of athletic programs allow for the development of those assets. For example, participation on a team gives our youth a much better use of his/her free time. The free time is structured and spent with a positive adult role model. The simple act of participation on a team gives our youth another asset - a sense of belonging. Belonging to a group gives our kids a sense of comfort and support. Coaches also provide our youth with another adult relationship outside of their immediate family. This is someone that these young people can turn to in time of need or guidance. These adults provide a model of positive, responsible behavior on a daily basis. Also, they provide an environment that encourages the athletes at practice and at the competitive level. All coaches at Portage High School provide rules and consequences in which student-athletes must follow to be part of the team. These rules demand other teammates to display the same positive behavior which in turn helps our athletics surround themselves by youth making positive choices. The relationship developed between athletic and coach, the love of the sport and the rules of the team, are exactly what many athletes need to lean on to make positive choices as a young person. Just by providing this structured framework for a successful team, student-athletes are developing at least 10 of the 20 external assets.
The other 20 assets, the internal assets, take more of an effort by our coaches to help our young people build. Our coaches encourage a commitment to learning by the student because passing grades keep the athletes eligible on the team. Team study tables are necessary if athletes fall behind in their schoolwork. This provides an environment for athletes to develop habits that encourage life-long learning. The most important aspects of coaching are teaching positive values: integrity, honesty, responsibility, and restraint. Along with developing positive values, coaches work on helping athletes develop a positive identity on a daily basis. The coaches’ interactions in practice and in competition help to teach these assets. It is not unrealistic to believe that the actions and words of a coach can have a lasting impact on a student athlete well beyond the high school years. The developmental assets that are modeled and nurtured in school sports will impact the athlete for years beyond organized sports.
Communication among teammates is essential to a strong team and a lifelong lesson on respect, getting along and working together. Student athletes learn so much from the responsibilities placed upon them. They learn to plan ahead through choices they make either in a split second on the playing field, in a classroom or for their future. They also participate in the decision making of the team. Whether it is who to pass the ball to or the attitude displayed to a referee call or overall game plan, student-athletes make many decisions.
The great football coach, Ara Parseghian once said, “A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” A good high school coach will get “W’s” on the record, but a great coach will develop a relationship and be a role model that will impact a student athlete for the rest of his/her life. At Portage High School, our athletic department strives to help student athletes be the best he/she can be on and off the court during and after high school. This commitment will serve to make our youth more successful in school and for the future. Do your part as a community and help our student athletes develop their assets, come out and enjoy a great sporting event at PHS. Check our website for our sporting event schedule.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.