From The Herald Review:

Youth sports in the U.S. is a $15.3 billion industry with private coaches, tryouts, travel tournaments and more.

“By the time students get to middle school, their families have already spent an incredible amount of time, energy and resources in their child’s sports experience.

“So what’s the purpose?”

This was part of a message from former collegiate basketball player, coach and athletic director Jody Redman in a video shared with the Grand Rapids/Bigfork School Board on Monday.

As Independent School District 318 Athletic Director Anne Campbell explained, the video, “Why We Play,” is based on the book “Inside Out Coaching,” by former professional football player Joe Erhmann and the focus of a state-wide initiative to inspire communities to transform sports culture. The Minnesota State High School League requested that all athletic directors engage their school boards with the presentation prior to approving resolutions for 2019-2020 league membership.

Campbell explained that she was part of a state cohort involving about 50 of her colleagues who met monthly with Redman and Erhmann to bring the initiative to Minnesota school districts. She said athletic directors and coaches have been working on the “Why We Play” curriculum for the past 10 years.

“Now Jody has expanded into the National Football League market, working with Dallas, Houston and New York – presenting the very thing she started in Minnesota,” said Campbell, who was ready to

read her own personal purpose statement for the board during Monday’s meeting along with Bigfork Principal/Athletic Director Scott Patrow.

“Joe (Erhmann) is about as tough a guy as you can get and as successful as he was in the NFL, he realized there was a void and it was the way he was coached and he wanted to change things,” added Patrow of the man Parade Magazine dubbed The Most Important Coach in America. “As highly successful as he was, he didn’t feel complete and fulfilled by great achievement at the highest level possible. This book and this movement is really revolutionary and something coaches have felt for a long time but now are empowered to do and carry forward. It’s exciting in the state of Minnesota to hear some of our coaches talking about loving their players and really meaning it and showing it.”

The video specifically targeted to school boards and the broader community continues to point out that less than 3% of our athletes will go on to play sports in college and less than 1% will play professionally. This means 97% of students will have a terminal experience in competitive sports when they graduate – so what’s the purpose?

“The purpose is human growth and development of our students and connecting them with caring adults within our community,” stresses Redman who explains that caring adults have never been more important in students lives as our young people face an incredible increase in pressure and stress which leads to mental health crisis, anxiety and depression.

“Athletic activities can provide that caring community – where they feel connected,” says Redman. “And it takes leadership to intentionally provide connections.”

With the athletic director being the front facing public person leading the charge – a strong athletic director influences and impacts students through others,” Redman explained.

Redman calls for communities to align – focused on purpose and value, more than wins and losses – from the school board to the superintendent to the principal, athletic director, students, parents and community.

“We need to hold our school communities accountable,” said Redman.

Following the video, Campbell presented ISD 318’s goal to be “Leaders of Learning” – with a common purpose and common language that aligns our community stakeholders.

“ Our goal is always to win,” clarified Campbell. “We prepare, plan and play to win but winning is not our purpose – our purpose is teaching and learning of our student athletes; human growth and development; connecting students to caring adults.”

Campbell then shared her personal purpose statement: “I am committed to serving and leading meaningful experiences in our district 318 programs that help prepare students for life by connecting them with caring coaches who encourage growth and development.”

Patrow followed with his: “I lead coaches by example. I model love for others with a duty to serve so they may know how to serve their student-athletes. I am reliable and responsible to equip them for service to their student-athletes.”

As athletic director, Patrow said he feels his role is to model love and service. He believes his coaches need to know they are supported with good schedules, reliability and availability. He strives to model “day to day commitment to excellence so coaches can understand those championships are not achieved in that one moment – but, rather, built up from day one.”

Nick Koerbitz, Grand Rapids Boys Head Soccer Coach, was also at the meeting to share his purpose statement.

“Why I coach is to be involved in my own community and instill in my young athletes a wish to succeed.”

Koerbitz went through the same program he is now leading. He said, as a hockey player for Grand Rapids, he learned from his then-coach Bruce LaRoque that “bleeding orange” meant what you’re sacrificing for your teammates.

“In this past season, we did some pretty cool things – we made it to section finals for the first time in eight years and had the first all state player in seven years,” said Koerbitz who explained that the “really cool things that didn’t show up in the newspaper,” were when his players showed compassion and guidance for junior varsity players and respect for other schools.

“Kids right now are better than they’ve ever been before and are absolutely worth our investment,” said Koerbitz. “That’s why I coach.”

Within the ISD 318 Athletics/Activities Department, Campbell keeps a “Coaches Clipboard,” which tracks all 110 coaches on whether they have completed required training and also lists their purpose statements.

Concluding the presentation, Campbell asked the school board to think about, “how will we collectively and publicly define success in our school community?”

Looking forward to the 2019-2020 school year and sports/activities season, Campbell explained that there will be pre-season meetings with similar presentations with a viewing of a “Why We Play,” video especially for parents.

In response, Board Chair Pat Medure suggested the presentation be given to community organizations to build community support and “really get down to why it is and what the purpose is why we play.”

“Being an official hearing comments in the stands their actions have an impact on kids too,” said Medure of working to change the culture of sports.

The board publicly acknowledged Campbell with appreciation for the work she does for the district.

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