My next book, The Other Classroom: The Essential Importance of High School Athletics (Rowman & Littlefield), gets released today.
On a personal level, pondering the task of writing book first required a deep look in the mirror to see the ways I and my coaching staffs over the years could have better served our student-athletes, not as athletes, but as people. That led me to want to provoke dialogue to build a renewed and better appreciation for the importance of high school sports as an essential educational tool. The more I dug into the subject matter, the more people I interviewed, and the more material I read and research I conducted, the more I discovered a wealth of educational nuggets buried beneath the rigors of the athletic battle field.
The Other Classroom became a value-based standalone curriculum for high school athletic programs. Bob Gardner, Executive Director of the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS), describes the book as “a must read.”
As the book shows, the benefits available to student-athletes from high school athletic programs are far ranging and include, for example:
- The development of character traits (like loyalty and empathy)
- The acquisition of life skills (like leadership, self-advocacy, perseverance, time-management and effective communication)
- Learning how to set, monitor, refine and make effective use of goals
- Learning how to prioritize time and activities through thoughtful decision-making
- Getting to experience the joy of passion for something
- Exposure to the process of conflict resolution
- Experiencing the unique emotional connectivity and bonds integral to the cohesive function of a team and embracing individual role in a group framework
- Experiencing the coach (and others) as role model and mentor
- Learning about citizenship thru the role of school ambassador outside of campus
- Exposure to the rigorous and painstaking daily process essential to the pursuit of consistency in excellence
- Seeing the value and experiencing the power and precision of sound habits
- Understanding how mistakes and failure are necessary and important tools for growth
- Acquiring the mindset and building the habits to sustain life-long wellness and physical conditioning
- Experiencing the power of hope and belief
- Acquiring the courage to step outside comfort zones, on the one hand, and learning the power of honoring limits, on the other
Coaches will always vary in what qualities they emphasize and how they allocate their time, based on their visions, goals and priorities. A student-athlete may take away different lessons from experiences than others might. Not every athletic program is or can be the same. But while high school athletic programs have their differences, they have in common the opportunity for timeless influence on the kind of adult each student-athlete can become. The challenge is what to emphasize and nurture. The process is beautifully imperfect.
The Other Classroom issues a robust challenge to all involved with the high school athletic experience—principally, educators, athletic directors, coaches, athletes, school administrators and parents—to assess how well high school athletic programs perform and serve the long-term interests and well-being of student-athletes. More than that, The Other Classroom is a blueprint for the development of the whole student-athlete, thru a comprehensive value-based athletic program designed to lift student-athletes to new heights, poised to embrace and conquer the challenges long ahead, and at the same time inspire them to overachieve in competition.