Confidence. Character. Connection.
These three words are strong, definitive and unwavering. They stand as the foundation of the work we do through athletics at Harding Academy. They represent our core values and what we hope to instill in our athletes through their participation in education-based athletics. Time and again, they are the words that students use to describe what, to them, are the most important and positive aspects of our programming. I couldn’t be more proud to witness these words in action on a daily basis on our fields and courts.
Eighteen months ago, when embarking on the process of defining who we are as an athletic program, I don’t think I fully understood the value of the work that we were about to undertake in creating our athletic mission statement. It was tedious at times and often felt like we were spinning our wheels. Although challenging, unifying a group and moving them together towards a common goal is what coaches do. There was thoughtful discourse, respectful disagreement and a process that allowed all voices to be heard - including most importantly, our students. The end product is a statement that I am incredibly proud of and believe accurately defines that for which we stand, while also aligning perfectly with the mission of the school:
The mission of Harding Academy athletics is to provide an opportunity for every student to grow in confidence and character in a supportive, team environment with a focus on fundamental skill development, healthy competition and building positive, meaningful relationships.
Confidence. Character. Connection.
The statement is resounding. It highlights the opportunities ALL of our kids have to participate given our no-cut policy in athletics. It highlights the confidence they have in themselves to take risks and try out for sports they haven’t necessarily experienced to a great degree, knowing they will be supported by coaches that truly care about them as individuals. It highlights the importance of the fundamentals and building a solid base of skills in the same way that teachers provide this solid foundation in the classroom. After all, education-based athletics are an extension of the classroom and developmental in nature, especially at the middle school level. It highlights athletics as an important vehicle through which character development is taught. Sportsmanship, contribution, selflessness, collaboration, and cooperation were all terms that came to light when describing the Harding athletic experience. Lastly but possibly most importantly, it highlights our focus on building positive, meaningful relationships with both teammates and coaches….connection. When we all think back to our time in middle school, the wins and losses or A’s and F’s tend to fade and we’re left remembering the relationships we created.
We need look no further than our participation statistics for validation that we are consistently headed in the right direction. The last 8 years running, 40% of our middle school students have participated in all 4 seasons of athletics at Harding. Eighty-five percent of students average playing at least two sports and 95% participate in at least one sport over the course of the year. Our kids gain a tremendous sense of pride and unity from wearing the Harding jersey. We thrive on fostering opportunities for multiple-sport athletes and this continues to be our barometer for a successful athletic program. It’s not about the number of wins or the number of championships, it’s about our kids wanting to be a part of our programs and continuing to participate in high numbers. It’s about our athlete-centered approach which guides everything we do. In the end, while our goals are to be competitive and win, our purpose is developing something entirely different that transcends athletics…..Confidence. Character. Connection.