LET’S MEASURE OUR STUDENT-ATHLETES ON SOMETHING ELSE

The Dayton (OH) Public Schools District made a controversial move last week when they announced that they were lowering the academic standards for their student-athletes to a 1.0 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale).

student-athlete
As an educator, now in my fifth year as an administrator, and former collegiate athletics academic advisor I am here to tell you something about GPAs. They are nothing more than arbitrary numbers. There is a nearly infinite amount of variables that factor into a student’s GPA. Here are a handful:

  • Quality of instruction
  • Rigor of classes
  • Quality of assessments
  • Additional Support (from teachers, parents, other school resources)
  • Curriculum accommodations for students with diagnosed learning challenges

Just to name a few. I will go to my grave having realized through my professional experiences that colleges and universities put way too much stock in a high school student’s GPA through the admissions process. Even the NCAA requires a minimum 2.0 GPA for admission and

I get it. GPAs seem objective. They are a number determined by a quantifiable equation. The problem is that GPAs are – I’ll use that word again – arbitrary.

A 2.0 GPA means something different at Harvard than it does at the University of Dayton than it does at Wright State University. A 2.0 GPA means something different at Ponitz High School (a Dayton Public School) than it does at Dayton Chaminade-Julienne High School than it does at Dayton Christian High School.

And, as an educator, I don’t know what those GPAs mean. And you don’t know what they mean. And the student-athletes don’t even know what they mean. They just think they know that a 4.0 is great. And a 2.0 or 1.0, or whatever minimum requirement is set, is just good enough.

If the curriculum and the instruction don’t make it subjective enough, the various learning styles and needs of each individual student take it to another level of subjectivity. Heck, the same GPA for two athletes on the same team can meet completely different things because of the classes they take and curriculum modifications and accommodations made.

I propose, instead, that we measure these young people on their effort. Are they striving to meet the demands of the academic challenges they are presented? Are they working to improve every day? I’ll take a kid with a 1.5 GPA who is working his backside off over a 3.5 GPA who has no work ethic any day.

And, most importantly, let’s measure their character. Are they good citizens? Are they respectful to adults, to their peers, and to the opposite gender? Are they willing to work cooperatively with others?

So I am not going to criticize mandating a 1.0 GPA. Does it sound low – sure it does. But if each and every one of those student-athletes who earn above a 1.00 GPA are working hard and exhibit good character, by all means, let them reap the rewards of playing high school athletics.

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UBUNTU

“Ubuntu” was a term that is relatively new to me. A colleague recently passed on the following story to me. After doing a Google search for “Ubuntu”, I also found the interview with Doc Rivers and how he has used it as a head coach. I couldn’t help but think about the values of humility and teamwork instilled in these young African people. As all teams develop, these young people should serve as models for us.

“UBUNTU”

An anthropologist studying the habitats and customs of an African tribe found himself surrounded by children most days. So he decided to play a little game with them. He managed to get candy from the nearest town and put it all in a decorated basket at the foot of a tree.

Then he called the children and suggested they play the game. When the anthropologist said “now”, the children had to run to the tree and the first one to get there could have all the candy to him/herself.

So the children all lined up waiting for the signal. When the anthropologist said “now”, all of the children took each other by the hand and ran together towards the tree. They all arrived at the same time, divided up the candy, sat down and began to happily munch away.

The anthropologist went over to them and asked why they had all run together when any one of them could have had the candy all to themselves.

The children responded “Ubuntu. How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”

Ubuntu means: I am because we are.

DOC RIVERS ARTICLE ON “UBUNTU”

http://www.espn.com/blog/los-angeles/clippers/post/_/id/5385/ubuntu-philosophy-lives-on-with-clippers

 

BARTMAN RECEIVES WORLD SERIES RING

If you didn’t hear, today the Chicago Cubs awarded Steve Bartman a World Series ring. Most people recognize Bartman as the Cub fan who, while attempting to catch a ball in foul territory in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, got tangled up with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou, and the ball fell foul.

The Cubs epic meltdown ensued. While leading the game 3-0 with one out in the eighth inning, and leading the series three games to two, the Cubs were only five outs away from their first World Series appearance in 58 years. Instead, the Cubs gave up eight runs in the inning, lost the game 8-3, and lost Game 7 the following night.

Let me reiterate that. The Cubs lost Game 6. And Game 7. And the National League Championship Series. Not Steve Bartman. Yet, Bartman has been held responsible by the media and some Cubs fans for the Cubs’ failure to make the World Series in 2003 (and every year through 2015).

As we all know, the Cubs finally ended the 108-year World Series championship drought last fall.

As a Cubs fan who has never placed blame on Bartman for Game 6, or any other loss, I was excited to hear Tom Ricketts and company has awarded Bartman a World Series championship ring. My only wish is that I could have witnessed the moment so I could feel the emotion for Bartman just as I did when Kris Bryant made the throw to Anthony Rizzo in the early hours of November 3, 2016.

Bartman has seemingly lived in privacy since that October night nearly 14 years ago. And while a visual of Bartman’s acceptance of the ring today may not exist, he did issue a statement of appreciation. One sentence from the statement has stuck with me since I read it earlier today. In the statement, Bartman says:

“My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.”

If we could only conduct our business and treat each other “ethically,” especially in the name of a game, our world would be better. If we could not profit, emotionally or financially, from the exploitation of others, our world would be better. From one Cub fan to another, thanks and congratulations Steve!

DATA? WELL, SOMETIMES.

This is a great read from USA Today’s Sam Amick regarding the widespread use of data in sports and how to combine its use with an individual’s “feel” for a game.

I like what Brent Barry had to say. As a fellow basketball broadcaster I try to gather as many statistics as possible and predict situations that could happen in the course of a game.

However, sometimes players, coaches, and broadcasters alike, must rely on their own instinctive knowledge of the game in analyzing a given situation. I like to often say that basketball is a game of infinite situations. It is impossible for us to prepare for all of them.To Barry’s point, you can prepare your own wisdom for a broadcast. However, there are situations that arise in a game that you may not have thought about in your preparation. What you still have is the working knowledge of an individual player or a team to connect them to the given game situation.

For instance, why didn’t the Pacers have Paul George take the last shot in game 2 against the Cavs? Well, the Pacers probably have practiced this situation at some point this season (at least, I hope) but Paul George had to analyze it on his own.

Never mind that he has been playing very well, George was double-teamed and, in that given situation, he would have had to force up a shot against two defenders (one was LeBron).

Brent Barry and I may not have made a statistical note about this going into this game so we would need to analyze the game situation as it is.

TONY DUNGY – HALL OF FAME PERSON

I love Tony Dungy. Yes, maybe it’s because he coached my favorite NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, maybe because he led the Colts to the city’s first major sports championship in my lifetime. But I have really grown to appreciate who Tony Dungy is as a person and the principles in which he led the football teams he did.

Tony Dungy

In preparation for Coach Dungy’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction this weekend, I reread his first book Quiet Strength, which was published in 2007 after the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. The last time I did any significant reading of Quiet Strength, I was preparing the eulogy for my nephew’s funeral six years ago. I recalled the strength in Coach Dungy’s words regarding dealing with grief (Dungy’s son Jamie died suddenly in 2005), and I wanted to articulate my own feelings in a similar way. His words helped me personally deal with my own grief.

To me, Tony Dungy embodies everything that is right in coaching and in being a leader for humanity. He was not only a good football coach but he knew the importance of using his platform for good. In observing him and reading about his career over the last twenty years, these are the character traits that I most appreciate about Tony Dungy:

  • He built his teams on character and values, the same way he lived his life.
  • As a coach, he always did things the “right way.” He never compromised character and virtues, even if it meant a better chance of winning.
  • He was positive with his coaching staff and players but he held them accountable.
  • He shared his faith openly with his coaching staff and players who were life-minded. He thought it was important that his players and coaches be connected spiritually.
  • He was loyal. He refused to fire Mike Shula in Tampa Bay after the 1998 season when Joel and Brian Glazer asked him to do so.
  • He often preached to his team, “Do What We Do.”Tony Dungy “did what he did” and he did it with class.

LESSONS FROM “JOE”

I attended the annual Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership conference a couple weeks ago at the University of Notre Dame. I had the pleasure to meet and hear author Todd Gongwer speak at dinner one evening. Todd, a coach himself, has quickly become acclaimed as a motivational speaker and outstanding author of the book Lead…for God’s Sake. (I highly recommend it, especially if you like leadership fables.)

Lead for Gods Sake
In his speech at dinner, Todd spoke about one thing that I have come to realize in sports and life – the realization that we control so very little the result of being “the best.” The reality is that we will eventually compete against someone who will be more talented than us and if they perform at their best, we’re going to get beat. Therefore, Todd says “your best” is maximizing the gifts and talents for the purpose God has given to you.

Being “excellent” is being the best you can be and letting life take care of itself.

Oh, you may be wondering who “Joe” is, as indicated in the blog header. Read Lead…for God’s Sake to find out more about him. You may learn a thing or two from “Joe.”

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Todd Gongwer and me at University of Notre Dame on June 25, 2016.

THE FIRST KEY TO PROGRAM SUCCESS

What is the first thing that your program needs to be successful? It is not a set of rules for your athletes to follow. It is not a system of X’s & O’s. It isn’t a summer conditioning program. While extremely important, it’s not even a great assistant coaching and support staff.

The first thing every program needs is to define who you are! As the leader of a program you must develop a system of values in which you want your program to be identified. While coaching and the education field as a whole are different than the business world there are more similarities than differences when it comes to leading them. Therefore it is necessary to establish values based on three key constituents of your program.

1) Your school or organization’s values –  When developing these values it is important to know your school or university’s values. While you do not need to include all of the values that the school has identified, it may be helpful to weave one or two of the school’s values into your own program. Know your school’s mission statement, its history, and value them.

2) Your personal values – What values are important to you? Which of these values do you want your athletes to carry with them throughout their lives? I am not suggesting you turn your athletes into robots and have them act like you. They need some freedom to be themselves. Instead, I am suggesting you choose a couple key values that are non-negotiable.

3) Values that are important to your athletes – This has as much to do with your program’s culture than anything. If you have taken over a new program that has a culture of apathetic players, you would want to make “hard word” or “commitment” one of your values. It is necessary to identify where your program is when you establish your values so you know what traits you need to implement to be successful.

Once you have established the core values for your program, it is time to implement them. Here are three important strategies to implement these values.

1) Emphasize your values every day. –  These values are who your program is and what they do. You must talk about these core values and motivate your athletes through these values each day you are together. Use motivational quotes. Tell stories of historical figures who have stood for one or more of your values. The best way to emphasize them is to provide examples of when your own athletes have lived out your core values.

2) Make sure your athletes are invested in the values. –  Whether you are in the middle of your season or your athletes are home for the summer you want them identified as an athlete in your program. You want them to live out these values in every walk of their life. As they do, you will find greater “buy in” to your program.

3) Simple is better. – When it first occurred to me as a head coach that my program needed some core values, I quickly made a list of 16 values that were important to my school, to me, and what my players needed. I should have narrowed that list to a more manageable number. There was not enough time to integrate all of these into my program. I would suggest you identify four to six core values for your program.

I love to hear your feedback. Are there other strategies that you have implemented in developing your program’s core values? Are there other effective ways you have implemented your own core values in your program?