November 25, 2011
Dear Parents, Alumni, and Student-Athletes,
The United States is one of the few countries in the world that incorporates athletics into its educational institutions. Developing athletes in most of the world is a specialized endeavor, conducted at sport academies and clubs as an activity outside of young people’s academic preparation, with developing elite athletes as the goal. Indeed, many experts in the game of soccer suggest it is America’s organization of the game, with players competing for college scholarships rather than positions on a national team that is a contributing factor to our inability to be more competitive on the world stage. Why then do we use this model?
Americans have long believed that participation in sports is a unique opportunity to learn life lessons that prepare young people for the challenges of adult life. In the most recent reports, more than 7.6 million American high school students participate in co-curricular activities. Those well-known traits of hard work, perseverance, teamwork, cooperation, and leadership, but to name a few, are best learned, or sometimes only learned, in athletic participation. Undoubtedly, this is not the first time you have heard this and perhaps you are firm believers in the value of playing sports as part of the development of young people for future success.
Dr. David Hoch, an athletic administrator and leader in the field of high school athletic administration, has suggested that in the American schoolhouse athletics play the part of the front porch. That is to say, it is the most visible and recognizable part of a school community in the eyes of the general public. Indeed, when you think of local high schools, public and private, those with great successes in athletics are often among the most familiar. One of the issues for us in academics, however, is how we measure the success of our athletic programs.
Our culture increasingly evaluates, ranks, and categorizes almost everything. Sport in America is ingrained in our culture; we have made Super Bowl Sunday a quasi-national holiday. And, of course, the way we grade everything in sports is based on the results on the scoreboard. For us in education, however, the true value of our athletic programs goes far beyond the number of games we win or college athletic scholarships awarded. Certainly, we are playing to win, but years from now, the truest evaluation of the benefit of participating in athletics will be far greater than how many games we won or scholarships awarded.
Bishop Ireton’s former athletes today include the current governor of Virginia, the chairman and CEO of Dominion Power, pastors, military leaders, coaches, as well as many others in every walk of life. Some may have been champions, most were not. But I dare say all would suggest that their experience in athletics played a part in their success after they left the halls of Bishop Ireton. That is the reason we provide such a wide variety of opportunities in the most competitive conferences and associations possible. For us, the final measure of the success of any season will not be known until long after the last game is played. Ultimately, the truest measure of our athletic success is found in the journey our athletes take; not only in the destination at which they arrive.
It's GREAT to be a Cardinal!!
W. W. Simmons