Improving School Culture Through Education-Based Athletics

As AD at Hibbing High School, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work with many transformational leaders. This year, we committed to showing up for our student-athletes every day through Why We Play and the InSideOut Initiative. Here’s how Hibbing High School’s education-based athletics work is helping our students grow and live with purpose.

First, there’s the Leadership Council, which consists of 23 10th through 12th graders who were nominated by their coaches and teachers to take part in Why We Play—an initiative to promote the educational purpose of sports in Minnesota. Before the start of the school year, I met with the kids during a two-hour Leadership Council kickoff where we discussed playing with purpose, and we worked on constructing our transformational purpose statements. I gave the kids two weeks to work on their purpose, fill out their transformational purpose statement worksheet, and meet with me individually to share their purpose.

Then, at our next meeting, we shared and created our Purpose Wall to display all of our statements. This wall is located next to my office, and it’s been neat to see all of the different students stopping to read what our Leadership Council believes in. Our next step is to take our purpose to our teams and work with the rest of our student-athletes to create a team purpose. The team purposes, as well as each individual coach’s purpose, will be put up on the wall next.

From my viewpoint, I’ve seen growth and maturity stemming from the Leadership Council in how the students are dealing with issues arising on their teams. I’ve been teaching them to speak out for the good—even if it’s going against the norm—and all of the coaches and teachers, as well as administrators, have seen a positive change in school culture. I will continue to work with our student-athletes and am expanding into the second group of 7th through 9th-grade leaders, so we can start to implement this program at an even younger age.

Here’s our Leadership Council’s collective statement: “As the Leadership Council at Hibbing High School, we strive to better the student community be working hard, competing at the highest level, and committing ourselves to our fullest potential. It is our responsibility to represent our school in a kind and respectful manner.”

And our coaches’ collective statement: “The Bluejacket Athletic Department strives to be authentic examples of commitment, integrity, respect, and reliability as we instill those values in our programs.”

Why We Play and the InSideOut Initiative have made sudden and positive impacts here at Hibbing High School, and I’m so honored to be a part of the MSHSL InSideOut Team Cohort this year. Here at Hibbing High School, we are expanding our educational-based athletic initiatives with a total buy-in from all coaches, and it’s making a difference with our students. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the year progresses!