On Saturday Fergus Falls Activities Director Derek Abrahams was one of 37 athletic administrators from Minnesota recognized at the 2017 Prep Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium for their participation in the Minnesota State High School League’s (MSHL) — Why We Play InsideOut Team Cohort program.
The Why We Play InsideOut Team Cohort program is a professional learning community working to develop transformational, character-based athletic programs in their communities — its purpose being to elevate the student-athlete in a way that goes beyond just playing the game to win, in turn focusing on the students’ human growth and development, aiming to reclaim the educational purpose of sports — connecting them with adults in their learning community.
“If you don’t focus on your purpose the only thing you have left is your goal then that’s how you become a win-at-all-costs team and that’s not what we want,” Abrahams said before Saturday’s event.
Fergus Falls joins 64 Minnesota high schools that made a year-long commitment to address specific needs of today’s youth as part of a collaborative partnership between the MSHL, the InSideOut Initiative, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund and the Minnesota Vikings, it is currently functioning in eight states in partnership with 13 NFL Teams.
“It’s a great honor,” Abrahams said. “It’s great because this is something that is probably the best way to share with the community that we’re doing this. For me to get it I feel humbled because I think I’m more just the face. We can’t bring all 57 coaches, I wish we could because it really goes to everybody that’s doing this. I can’t do this myself, I don’t have the daily interaction with the players like our coaches do, and it truly is I’m one person that’s going to be representing 57 down there so I’m thrilled about it, I’m thrilled that the Minnesota State High School League is recognizing our school and all the other schools that are doing this.”
Brainerd High School is another school participating in the program.
“This cohort has created an opportunity to develop personally and professionally and to reconnect with what is in our hearts. It provides us with a common language and a platform to speak about the issues we are all facing,” Charlie Campbell, activities director for Brainerd High School shared.
Why We Play was founded on the InSideOut philosophy contained in Joe Ehrmann’s book “InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Transforms Lives.” In 2015, a partnership was formed between Ehrmann and Jody Redman, associate director for the MSHL and the InSideOut Initiative was launched with funding from the NFL Foundation, as a way to replicate Minnesota’s Why We Play model to communities across the country.
“We now find ourselves in a win at all costs youth sports culture, which has grown into a $15 billion per year industry,” Redman wrote in an email. “We’re not creating better citizens through sports. We’re not serving communities. We’re not even serving the children who participate. We need to reclaim the transformative power of sports by being aware that there is a greater purpose which is their human growth and development and connecting them to caring adults in their learning community.”
The MSHL is a voluntary nonprofit association of public and private schools with a history of service to Minnesota’s high school youth since 1916. Today more than 500 schools are members of the League and provide opportunities for athletics and fine arts competition for more than 200,000 high school students statewide each year, it is also one of the largest state high school leagues in the nation, with expansion of the program the MHSL is now seen as a leader in incorporating social-emotional learning into interscholastic sports.
“We’re taking the common saying of ‘The activities are a common extension of the classroom,’ and we’re intentionally making sure that we do that,” Abrahams said.