Sports and statistics are so intertwined that sometimes discussions about athletics include more numbers than a math class.
Among the many statistics that the Harding athletic department thrives on include:
95 percent, which is how many middle school students participate on at least one team at Harding, every year.
84 percent, which reflects how many students are two-season athletes.
40 percent, Harding’s number of four-season athletes—the students who are continually engaged in athletics throughout the school year, and have maximum participation.
Collectively, those numbers mean that: “The kids like what they’re getting and they keep coming back for more,” said Harding Athletic Director Corby Lucas.
That philosophy of inclusiveness doesn’t hamper performance, as results from the 2016–17 school year showed. Harding had an undefeated football team, a state champion in mountain biking, three all-conference athletes in girls basketball, plus many, many other success stories.
But while it’s always exciting to add another championship team to the banners that hang in the school gym, the emphasis on participation supports the overall Harding goal of giving students a chance to try something new.
Lucas expanded on the school’s athletic philosophy in a Radio Harding interview with Deb Faulkner. Here are excerpts from that conversation.
On Harding’s inclusiveness:
“I think first and foremost our kids have so many opportunities to be involved given the four athletic seasons and number of athletic offerings we have. We create an environment where they feel safe taking risks such as trying a sport they have never played. They know that no matter what, they will feel welcome and given the opportunity to grow while being challenged to be their best, whatever their best is.”
Keeping wins and losses in perspective:
“I think you get into a danger zone at the middle school level when you measure success on wins, losses, and championships. For us, wins and losses are a byproduct of ‘the process’ of fundamental skill development and creating a positive sporting environment for our kids. We want them to reflect back on the experience and have fond memories of their time at Harding participating on our athletic teams. No one remembers how many games they won and lost on their middle school teams, but they remember the relationships they created with their coaches and teammates. Those relationships are what keep kids coming back more than anything.”
Giving every student a chance:
“We have 13 varsity sports, some of which are single gender and some co-ed, and over 15 different junior varsity teams. So there is a place for everyone.”
The ultimate goal for Harding athletes:
“I want them to remember the relationships and connections they created and how important it was to be a dependable teammate. I hope that they are appreciative of the opportunities they had here to be involved, not just in athletics, but all the different extracurriculars we offer. The foundation for many life lessons is built in an educationally-based athletic environment and I hope our kids look back and realize that we began that process in middle-school athletics at Harding.”