Each new school and sports year at Colorado Academy, we have the opportunity to reset and renew the culture surrounding athletics at CA. This is my seventh fall here on Pierce Street, and I’m always energized by pre-season, the start of competition, and the resilient attitudes displayed by coaches and players. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to have some down time during which I read a book titled, Legacy, by James Kerr recommended to me by CA Head Coach of girls soccer, Sean Stedeford. Legacy is about the New Zealand men’s national rugby team and the atmosphere and tradition surrounding the team known as the “All Blacks.” The “All Blacks” have a fantastic reputation for excellence, success, and leadership.
During the pre-season coaches meeting, I shared three ideas from Legacy that I thought were important for our student-athletes and their teams as they embarked on a new season.
Why do you do what you do? What is your purpose? What inspires you?
For me, as the CA Director of Athletics, I feel my purpose is to provide students with world-class, meaningful growth opportunities and life lessons through movement, sport, and competition. I am continually inspired by the genuine effort exhibited by our student-athletes; CA has amazing kids! For our coaches, they may have different ideas about why they coach at CA, but the most important thing when posing these questions is “why”? I don’t think we can be effective leaders, teachers, or coaches until we can answer these questions and really dive into what gets us out of bed every morning. Most students see through superficiality. CA coaches really do care about their players and are sincere in their efforts as they plan, practice, and compete regularly.
Owen Eastwood, a professional who works with groups around the world on team culture and is referenced in Legacy speaks about the South African word “Ubuntu”. “Ubuntu means we send out ripples from us into the wider community: our actions affect everyone, not just us.” Remembering this as teachers, coaches, athletes, and parents is important as we always strive to create a positive learning environment and model supportive behavior where it’s ok for people to fail, self-evaluate, take risks, learn from our mistakes, and then succeed. We ask our players to also “play with a purpose” by asking “why.” Players have a responsibility to do more than just show up. Current CA student-athletes have generations of students that have preceded them and more generations behind them that are counting on them to grow the legacy. Internationally recognized behaviorist and consultant Terence Gorski puts it this way, “We all stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. And those who come after us, will stand upon our shoulders.”
“Rather than obsessing about the results, focus on the team. Do the little things right. Plan, practice, and prepare the right way, and the results will take care of themselves.”
As a school, our goal is not simply outcomes. This may seem counter-intuitive to competition or even education, but it’s not. We celebrate the victories; these are all a result of excellent preparation throughout the process. We also stress “team first,” which is a challenge in our fast-paced, instant-gratification, self-absorbed society. I tell our coaches that it’s not “win at all costs,” it’s “compete at all times.” If we can help students prepare correctly and learn to compete every second in practice, the results will take care of themselves. Long-time “All Blacks” captain Graham Henry said, “If everybody is getting better every day and improving 5%, 10%, 15%, the team’s going to improve. If you put these collective percentages together you’ve got something special.”
The focus needs to be vertical, and not just on the varsity squad.
We have some of the best coaches in the state at the varsity and sub-varsity levels. Over the past few years, heads of programs like boys tennis coach Brian Singer and field hockey coach Veronica Scott have reached out to our Middle School teams to make sure teaching philosophy, techniques, and strategies follow a scope and sequence much like our academic curriculum. Those efforts are paying off with a tremendous depth in those particular sports. This year, players who in years past would have almost been guaranteed a varsity spot are now on highly competitive V2, JV, or C teams.
As an athletic department, we look at the Physical Education offerings in Pre-K through 5 to provide the best, age-appropriate activities, to expose students to different athletic offerings, and to inspire them to want to participate as student-athletes throughout their time at CA. Tom Peters, author of Thriving on Chaos said, “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence, only in constant improvement and change.” Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Races are won by a fraction of a second, National Championship games by a single point. That fraction of a second or a single point is the result of relevant details, and hard work, along the way.”
Because of their public nature, athletics can define a group or community. The Greek statesman Pericles was quoted In Legacy, as saying “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. Your legacy is that what you teach.” At CA, that means hard work, persistence, excellence in character, and a positive competitive nature. That is what you’ll see when you come out to support one of our athletic events this fall. Check the CA website for game details. League, Regional, and State playoffs are right around the corner!