So what exactly is a “cohort” anyway? According to Google, a cohort is “a group of people banded together or treated as a group.” For those states in Phase 2 of the InSideOut Initiative, a cohort seems to be something so much more. It is more like a team or even a family. For those in California, Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota who have reached this phase, it is where this initiative really starts to separate itself from other professional development opportunities. This is where the “magic” starts to happen and the sustainability for culture change really becomes a reality.
During the last year, I have had a chance to be a participant in the Minnesota Cohort and just last month had the great opportunity to join the Indiana Cohort as they begin their deep dive into changing the culture of education-based athletics across their entire state. Here are my three biggest takeaways so far:
We all have a need to belong or to fit into something greater than ourselves. In each of the cohorts I have been a part of, the fact that it is an “opt-in” (similar to our education-based athletic opportunities for students) creates an immediate culture of believers. There is no way any of us can change a culture by ourselves, and certainly not one as powerful as high school sports in America! Building community takes time and it takes energy, but when I look at not only how many new people I have met on this journey, but how much better I have gotten to know them, it has most definitely been worth it.
2. Capacity Building
To quote our leader Joe Ehrmann, “To be a better coach/AD, you have to be a better you.” Never has that been more applicable than in being a part of the cohort. There is so much to learn on how to most effectively do this work and that takes time. By intentionally carving out space in our extremely busy schedules to better ourselves, to study best practices and to continue to study and learn together we definitely grow our capacity as leaders.
3. Team Accountability
As with any team, we need rules, expectations, and deadlines to guide our work. While those are important without a bigger commitment to not let our teammates down those rules are as worthless as the paper they are written on. With the InSideOut Cohort model focused on community first, there is built-in accountability to not let each other down. In my own experience, knowing that I needed to do my part to help the team served as a great motivator to keep the movement moving forward in our own school community. In addition, the best practice ideas shared at each cohort meeting proved to be extremely valuable.
Part of the power of the InSideOut Initiative is continuing to learn and grow together—but not only in our own states. I look forward to the opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the country at the National AD Conference this December to ask them how things are going in their states and what challenges they are facing. Just like what is happening at the state level, the growth of this movement across the country is truly inspiring and reminds us all that collectively, we absolutely can and are making a difference in the lives of our students.