Empowering Athletes Through Ownership Creates A Better Sports Environment For All

I have long believed in placing more responsibility for athletic success directly on the shoulders of the individuals who have the most control over attaining that success, the athlete. This belief has grown out of my 38+ years of sports involvement in various capacities as an athlete, teacher, coach, and parent. It is virtually impossible not to come away with some level of wisdom with so many years invested; that is my hope anyway.

Well, it appears that a suburban high school, Mount View High School in Thorndike, Maine, and a girls' varsity basketball coach from Whitesboro High School in Marcy, New York, have taken a unique approach to this idea of more responsibility on athletes. Both, each in their own way, are giving student athletes more ownership and thus impact over the environments in which the athletes are involved.

At Mount View High School, a collection of student-athletes representing all athletic programs supported by the school get together to talk about sports or, in this particular case, sports behavior as in - sportsmanship. Their goal; "to make a difference in the way high school athletics -- and its athletes -- at Mount View are perceived."

This, they decided, would best be accomplished by paring down their "Fans' Code of Conduct" to its essentials and having an athlete read it - rather than an administrator, teacher, or other adult - before every home game or match.

It appears, based on Mark Haskell's article, Mustang captains hope to keep climate positive this winter, that the impetus for such an endeavor came out of the not-so-positive reputation of Mount View High School's athletics program, something the athletes themselves are taking an active role in changing.

Such a novel idea, getting those who are most impacted by good or bad sportsmanship involved in encouraging positive change. I think I like it!!!

A different approach to this same concept, giving athletes more ownership, is occurring in a girls' basketball program at Whitesboro High School where Coach Patrick Reader has implemented a new procedure for inspiration. Instead of him being the inspirational leader for his players, he expects his own athletes to come up with pre-game messages that help motivate the team before they play. The rules:

"Reader only asks they give it some thought and follow rules of grammar. An inspiring quote, a reminder from practice or a team-related story - all of it is in bounds."

Athletes inspiring athletes. Who would've thought?

More of Reader's reasoning for giving the athletes under his direction such a task can be found at UTICAOD.com in the piece, Whitesboro athletes find inspiration every game, by Anne Delaney.

In reflection (after reading these articles), and what I find most interesting in both cases, is that the individuals in charge are giving up some ownership and placing more responsibility on their athletes for creating the environments in which these athletes wish to participate. One group through collective work toward building a better, more positive atmosphere and sports culture, and the other through inspirational messages that motivate and help prepare them to compete.

From my perspective, whenever you get athletes truly invested in the task at hand, the results will almost always be more prolific. Sure would be nice to see ideas like these spread across our sports culture. It might actually make a difference.

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