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A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress
Mike Romeo

Creating a competitive athletic program that prioritizes the well-being of our student-athletes is the core value in our quest to provide the Wardlaw+Hartridge community the athletic program it deserves.

Have we perfected this? Absolutely not. We are very much a work in progress. I believe we are moving in the right direction. However, it is not something we can do solely as a department. It takes all of us to operate as a team. The “team” consists of three major partners: CoachesPlayers, and Parents.  

In this blog I would like to share some of the ways our three major players can work together: 

From Our Coaches:

As coaches, we naturally embrace challenges. It’s all part of the process. We also know that successful teams compete without fear or distraction. Here are some ways we create what I like to call “Fearless Unity” within your team.

Foster a Supportive Culture Within Your Team 

Create a culture where student-athletes feel supported and valued. Encourage open communication, empathy, and respect among coaches, teachers, and teammates. Promote a positive team culture that emphasizes sportsmanship, mutual support, and camaraderie. Encourage team-building activities, leadership development, and character-building exercises. When players feel supported, they are more likely to support each other. 

Be a Teacher First and Collaborate with Faculty 

Establish a closer partnership between coaches and W+H faculty to ensure effective communication regarding student-athletes' academic responsibilities. I am a big fan of teacher coaches. Over the past year we have added several faculty members to coach the Middle and Upper School teams. I’ve always felt that the best coaches see themselves as teachers first and coaches second.

Be Flexible With Scheduling 

The Greater Middlesex Conference is designed to be competitive. Participation in GMC divisional and tournament play takes a lot of time and sacrifice. We have to be considerate of practice hours, but still have teams ready to compete. It’s important we recognize that our students often have commitments that go outside of Wardlaw+Hartridge. They have family commitments and many play on club teams. We are not your average school with average students. Many strive to be high academic achievers and many of those students play for our teams.

Mental Health Awareness

Recognize the anxieties and social pressures many of our students experience while trying to balance an academic workload with putting in the hours it takes to be a competitive athlete. Attend workshops and seek information from reliable sources that focus on stress management, anxiety reduction, and overall well-being for student-athletes. Encourage players to seek help when needed and help create a stigma-free environment.

From Our Parents: 

Be supportive of the athletic experience at Wardlaw+Hartridge. Recognize our program’s role in educating your child. Understand the value gained by playing on an athletic team.

Trust Our Coaches

High school coaches are managing a diverse group of students with varied levels of skill to work together as a unit. Understand that teamwork requires some self-sacrifice. Trust that our coaches have your child’s best interest in mind when carving out their player’s role within the team. Those roles might not align with your vision. Take a deeper look and be open to how the new role can be beneficial to a student-athlete’s overall development. 

Educate Yourself on the Benefits of High School Athletics

Playing on a high school team is very different from playing on a club team. Our athletic program focuses more on maximizing the experience over competitive results. Winning and individual honors are a part of that experience, but so are losing and the lessons learned that coexist with the disappointment our student-athletes experience. It’s always easier to stay positive when the team is winning. It is important to model a positive outlook no matter what the scoreboard reads.

Self-Awareness Matters

Some questions you can ask yourself: 

  • Am I really paying attention to how my behavior on the sidelines or after a game is making my child feel? Can I do a better job of controlling my emotions to set a better example for my child? 
  • Do I encourage my child to be a great teammate through my actions and words?
  • Does my child really want to play at the next level? Are they enthusiastic about the dedication and sacrifice necessary to compete in college? 
  • Do I trust the coach? Am I encouraging my child to trust and respect their coach? 
  • Am I setting a good example by refraining from negative talk about my child’s coach in front of them? 

From Our Student-Athletes:

Your first priority as a Wardlaw+Hartridge Ram is to be a great teammate. 

That starts with having more awareness of how your teammates might be feeling. Teammates have to feel supported. Be enthusiastic about taking on challenges. Know your role within the team. If you’re not sure what your role is, ask your coach before or after practice to get a clearer picture of where you can best help the team. Trust that the coach has your best interest in mind. Understand the sacrifices associated with being on a team. 

Character Counts

Understand your commitment to the team. Communicate with coaches and teammates when scheduling conflicts occur. Take responsibility for your actions and hold yourself to a high standard of accountability. Stay proud to be a Wardlaw+Hartridge Ram and encourage your teammates to do the same. 

Respect All, Fear None

You may remember that this was last year's T-shirt slogan. Think about what respecting all really means. It applies to your coaches and teammates, but also to officials and opponents. Sometimes teams lose games because they fail to respect an opponent based on their record or a past game. However, sometimes we will beat a team that most thought to be unbeatable. This is what happens when we eliminate fear and focus solely on competing as hard as we can for the duration of the contest. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “You cannot let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.” 

Have Fun!

Enjoy the experience. Alumni will always tell you that it goes by quickly. Make the most of every moment you spend on a team. Some of your fondest memories will be made playing for our teams. These moments are not exclusive to what happened in the game. Many of these moments can include things like bus rides, practices, locker room conversations, or group chats.