InSideOut Initiative Kicks Off In Virginia

On December 2nd, in partnership with the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, Virginia High School League, and the NFL Foundation, educational and athletic leaders from across the region gathered to build consensus on reclaiming the educational purpose of sports and set the stage for implementation of the InSideOut Initiative in Virginia.

Communities must align around a shared purpose for athletics programs if they seek to transform the toxic “win-at-all-costs” culture that has dominated youth and high school sports for decades. Billy Haun, executive director of the Virginia High School League, spoke with attendees about the vital role that athletics play in students’ lives — a role that goes far beyond the scoreboard or championship trophy.

“We have some great teachers in our schools,” Haun said. “But some lessons just can’t be taught in the classroom. Our coaches and school community are so important to our students.”

Troy Urdahl, the InSideOut Initiative’s AD partner for the Virginia region, echoed Haun’s sentiments and encouraged the leaders in attendance to reflect on how they were coached when they were young—to help inform how they coach and lead student-athletes.

“The best part of my job is when I get a chance to sit across from a student athlete, and they tell me the work that we’re doing is making a positive difference in their life,” Urdahl added.

Approximately 97 percent of students will stop participating in organized sports once they graduate high school, so it’s crucial that school communities develop and sustain athletics programs that bring more value to student-athletes’ lives beyond winning games. 

“We have to establish and be clear about our purpose — the human growth and development of kids,” Jody Redman told the educational leaders in attendance. “What is the purpose of sport? Is it teaching and learning? Because if it’s not, then it doesn’t belong in a school.”

When athletic leaders and school communities don’t exemplify the true purpose of purpose-based athletics, the result is a pressure-filled experience that does little to develop a student’s human potential and, worse, contributes to the mental health issues so many young people face today. Joe Ehrmann spoke to this mental health epidemic and how the intervention of purpose-based athletics can help. “The intentional intervention of purpose-based athletics—that can be a magic pill.” 

Virginia and the Washington D.C. area is home to incredible transformational leaders—many of whom are already committed to fostering purpose-based athletics programs. We’re honored to be part of a movement to make transformational sports culture the norm across the region—and thank the NFL Foundation and our Virginia partners for the continued support that makes this work possible. Phase 1 training with Virginia ADs will continue in January 2020.