Pep rallies, homecoming events, last-second winning shots, bonfires, and state championship games – these can embody some of the fondest and exciting memories of our high school years. BFA Fairfax has been extremely fortunate to experience immense success in our athletic programs. Multiple state championships, numerous league titles, and dozens of individual all-league and all-state selections are the result of driven and talented students, as well as passionate and knowledgeable coaches. However, team talent is often cyclical, and inevitably a team will have a period that doesn’t quite meet some people’s notion of success as it pertains to the win-loss column.
In a December 2016 article published by the National Federation of State High School Associations, Dr. David Hoch writes “A basic premise of education-based athletics is that winning is not the only or ultimate objective. Instead, the growth and development – and this does not mean sport-specific skills – of student-athletes is the most important goal.” At BFA Fairfax, this commitment to growth and development through athletic participation includes fostering skills in leadership, sportsmanship, communication, overcoming adversity, humility, perseverance, group success over individual success, and service to others.
Dr. Hoch identifies leadership, sportsmanship, team community service projects, and participation rates as some of the important indicators of the success of a school’s athletic programs. I’m proud to outline these indicators as they relate to BFA Fairfax.
Each November BFA Fairfax sends eight student-athletes to the VPA/VSADA Student Leadership Conference. This annual event hosts hundreds of the top student-athlete leaders from all Vermont high schools. During two intensive days of training in leadership, goal setting, and life skills with renowned athletic and motivational speakers from across the country, our students gain valuable knowledge and insight to bring back to their school and teams. The leadership skills and commitment to service demonstrated by our student-athletes in recent years have been a direct result of our students attending this annual event, and the countless dividends continue to be paid forward to our school and the greater community.
BFA Fairfax takes great pride in the multiple state Sportsmanship Award banners hanging in the Richard A. Brown Gymnasium. Our teams, athletes, and coaches are often known as humble and compassionate, finding ways to avoid running up a score against a struggling team, or demonstrating respect to officials during a match or game. Frequently it is our student-athletes who are identifying inappropriate fan behavior on the sidelines or stands in the midst of a game, and reporting it to coaches to have it addressed. Although there is always room for improvement, BFA Fairfax makes every effort to embody the concept of sportsmanship throughout our athletic community.
Team Community Service Projects
Service to others is one of the core covenants of the BFA Fairfax athletic program. In any given year, there are multiple athletic events geared toward giving back to our community or the greater world. Recent student-driven service initiatives have included the annual Pink Zone cancer fundraising basketball games, Melanoma Society awareness games, Homecoming week events supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and Hunger Free Vermont, as well as more local initiatives such as officiating youth sporting events, offering free sport clinics, and assisting with upkeep of our school athletic fields.
For the past five years, annual participation rates in co-curricular activities (including non-athletic activities) at BFA Fairfax has steadily remained at 65-80% of our student population. According to Dr. Hoch, “While some might argue that young people are more likely to be a member of a winning team, a survey of athletes will likely reveal that they participate because they enjoy being with their friends in a positive learning environment. When a school’s teams are filled to capacity and offer every team level possible, success has occurred regardless of the seasonal win-loss records.” With research consistently demonstrating the intangible benefits of co-curricular participation, the 65-80% participation rate at BFA Fairfax is something of which we are extremely proud.
As a former high school and collegiate athlete, I would be remiss if I said I did not enjoy winning. However, as a coach, athletic director and administrator, my idea of athletic success has greatly transitioned since my playing days. Empowering students to be confident, contributing members of society, who embrace a “we before me” mentality, and learn valuable life skills THROUGH athletics, is the ultimate definition of success. The championship banners and league titles are just icing on the cake, and if you do all the little things right, you’d be surprised how much icing you truly have.
Hoch, D. 2016, December 20, Ideas on measuring success in high school athletics, National Federation of State High School Associations, retrieved September 19, 2017 from https://www.nfhs.org
Geri-Lyn Witalec is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax.