Written by Scott Bauman

Previously from #52WeekCoaching, Coach Lynch discussed in #PreSeasonPrep the importance of being prepared for the first two weeks of practice. A similar sentiment could be shared with regards to student-athletes getting off to a strong start when it comes to the classroom. The first couple of weeks leading up to the first quarter/semester grading period sets them up in a positive direction that could permeate the rest of the year:

  • Setting the bar higher to sustain grades versus trying to battle to keep your head above water
  • Understanding time-management. Maintaining high academic standing creates an opportunity to allocate time toward other priorities/interests – open gyms, lifts, AAU/clubs, extracurriculars, etc.
  • First impressions can be the difference when you need it most. Teachers/professors are far more likely to invest in those that show investment through attendance and engagement.
  • Mitigates added stress prior to the rigors of the season

The point being, the start of the school year can be a good indicator of mental preparation for our student-athletes.  And it is our responsibility as coaches to put them in the best position possible to get off to a good start.

Standards To Success

Our core values for our program looks to integrate on-the-court with academic integrity.

  • Character
  • Effort
  • Resolve
  • Together – Be Involved

That being said, this topic has been a challenge in and of itself. Our number one priority is to put all student-athletes within our program in position to graduate on time and in the best academic standing possible. But what I have found while writing this piece is that our academic standards are not as clear as on-the-court expectations. This is why I created #52WeekCoaching – to force myself to be honest about the myriad of elements it takes to put together a sustainably successful program year-round. This is an area that we need to continue to improve.

That withstanding, in our program we do have expectations for everyone to sustain a 70 (“C” average based on grading scale in Massachusetts) or above in each class. During the season, any student-athlete below a 70 is required to attend “Homework Club.” There are 3 days where Homework Club is available throughout the week. Any athlete on the list to attend must show up to at least one of the three days where a sign-in sheet is present.

For failure to show up, the following may apply:

  1. Culture Run – Team Conditioning following Practice
  2. Withheld from Practice

Challenges to Culture:

  • Out-of-Season: At the high school level in particular, with so many multi-sport athletes out-of-season can mean they are no longer under your jurisdiction of culture. At collegiate level, it is more on the motivational level. Out-of-season can take athletes out of routine, which challenges their discipline to manage their time.
  • Teachers/Staff Collaboration: Imposing grade-checks can be seen as additional work for educators. Convenient responses over genuine feedback.
  • Logistics: Depending on the level of students missing classes or having to do homework or assignments while on the road.

Prior to coaching at the high school level – as an assistant at Division III program – our head coach incorporated a similar freshman and GPA study-hall rule. This was not deemed as a punishment as any of our student-athletes were encouraged to attend, particularly our captains to influence others to take advantage of the opportunity. All freshman were required to attend our bi-weekly study hall, while any upperclassmen below a 2.75 cumulative GPA also had to attend. This intended to get the freshman class off to a good start. It also gave us more facetime with them and additionally allowed upper-classmen to interact with the younger student-athletes possibly grooming them or taking some under their wing.  As for upperclassmen, we wanted them to continue to prioritize their grades and not let it get to a point where they started to lose track towards graduation.

Collaboration & Communication with Administration/Staff is Crucial

We have not imposed grade sheets since I have been coaching. However, I think there is value to those that use them. Fortunate, within our program the athletics office has been instrumental bridging the lines of communication for grade checks and classroom updates. Having someone on staff or working with the staff that is dependable helps to hold the student-athletes accountable. Whatever the approach, the communication between program staff, student-athletes, and educators are pivotal toward academic progress.

‘Handshake Rule’

My wife’s program incorporates the ‘Handshake Rule’ expecting all student-athletes to introduce themselves to anyone new (i.e. professor, trainer, recruit) with a handshake and name. This is to help encourage taking initiative, making a positive first impression, and being approachable. 

Developing relationships can play a significant role in the overall development for student-athletes getting the best possible feedback for them to stay on track. Transparency between feedback and academic standing tends to stand on the foundation of relationships. It can also be conducive to have a pulse on progress without having to interfere. Through those relationships accountability, honesty, and investment can take place to promote a culture of academic integrity.

 

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