MINNEAPOLIS — Winning isn’t everything. NOR is it the only thing.
This revision on an old saying is paraphrasing the message of the InSideOut Initiative, which officially launched in Minnesota on Monday when dozens of school administrators at the district, school and school board levels gathered for a one-day forum.
Minnesota is the 14th state and 17th NFL market to implement the InSideOut Initiative, a nonprofit that is aimed at transforming a “win-at-all-costs” sports culture by redefining the role of interscholastic sports.
The official establishment of the InSideOut Initiative in Minnesota occurred thanks to a partnership with the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), NFL Foundation and statewide education leadership associations including MSBA, MASA, MASSP, MNIAAA and Minnesota State High School Coaches Association (MSHSCA).
“For sports to provide students with social, emotional character development, we must move beyond defining success by the scoreboard and create space in the culture for a higher purpose,” InSideOut Initiative thought-leader Jody Redman said in an official press release.
Redman, who also is an associate director with the MSHSL, has worked with NFL Legend Joe Ehrmann (Baltimore Colts, 1973-80; Detroit Lions, 1981-82), as co-founders of the InSideOut Initiative. They have introduced the concept across the country thanks to support from the NFL Foundation.
“I’m proud to be part of the team officially bringing InSideOut to Minnesota, and grateful to my colleagues and partners at the Minnesota State High School league for prioritizing and supporting this important work,” Redman added. “The InSideOut Initiative team looks forward to continued partnership with the Minnesota State High School League and the Minnesota Vikings, and is grateful to the NFL Foundation for bolstering the already-great work happening in Minnesota.”
Redman and Ehrmann, who authored InSideOut Coaching, explained how winning can be a goal at all levels of sports, but it should not supersede purpose-driven coaching and teaching that emphasizes human growth and development.
The InsideOut Initiative utilizes a three-phase process to yield positive results. Phase One equips school communities with training, proven resources and best practices. Phase Two provides athletic administrators with access to a professional learning community that meets monthly to focus on personal growth, leadership development and curriculum training. Phase Three provides curriculum that intentionally grows character and leadership of students to deepen relationships.
Changes result from raising awareness of problems, creating alignment to fix issues, taking action and maintaining accountability.
“This initiative really began as a movement here to align school communities and reclaim that educational purpose of sport,” Redman told Vikings.com. “So to see it come back and have this room full of amazing leaders representing educational associations across the state, I just know it’s really going to elevate, and we’re really going to be able to impact the social-emotional development of students through this.”
Vikings Chief Operating Officer Andrew Miller delivered the keynote speech at Monday’s meeting. Miller was named COO in August after four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Miller was with the Cleveland Indians the previous 10 years and explained how that time shaped his leadership principles.
“Our goal was to win, but we wanted to do it in a way that we thought was right and that exuded a culture that was important to us,” Miller explained. “That was sort of a transformative time in my life as a leader. In sports, you understand that you can have a goal of winning at the highest level of sports and still care about character, values, culture and treating people the right way.”
Miller explained the difference in approach between pro baseball and football, being that there can be several years of age difference between teenage baseball prospects and NFL first-year players who have spent multiple years in college.
“Your goal is not necessarily to have a good 18-year-old player,” Miller said. “Your goal is to have a good 25-year-old player that’s going to help you win games at the Major League level. The whole goal is to help these young athletes transform and grow as people. We kept looking at that and, ‘How do we create an advantage?’ Everything kept coming back to education.”
Miller, who walked on the Cal baseball team as a left-handed pitcher, said that sports and education have intertwined throughout his life.
Winning a Super Bowl is the Vikings ultimate goal, he said, but the Vikings also have a purpose behind making positive impacts in the community through support of the high school and youth football.
“We do this because we’re passionate about football and because the character traits that children and young adults learn from sports — whether it’s teamwork, selflessness, perseverance, overcoming adversity or grit, resilience — all of these things that make someone good as an athlete can help as they mature into adults,” Miller said.
Prior Lake High School Activities Director Russ Reetz, Eastview High School Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Athletics Matt Percival, and St. Anthony Village High School Activities and Facilities Director Dr. Troy Urdahl have had a head start on implementing principles of the InSideOut Initiative.
They shared their progress during a panel discussion.
Prior Lake-Savage Superintendent Dr. Teri Staloch, St. Anthony Village Superintendent Dr. Renee Corneille, St. Anthony Village School Board Chair Andrea Scamehorn and Eastview Principal Bruce Miller followed by explaining how they are applying the approach beyond sports.
“It’s really been a think-tank, so to speak, of how we create the best practices,” Redman said. “We take a lot of work from what schools are doing here and apply it as a litmus across the country in other communities. To be able to formalize the process here again in Minnesota — this is the first time we’ve brought educational leaders together from school communities — is really what I feel will elevate the role of the athletic administrator in their schools’ communities to look at athletics as a way to provide teaching and learning.
“We owe it to our student-athletes to provide them with an opportunity to grow and develop their moral capacity and relational capacity,” Redman added. “I think that is what we are lacking in our culture today: the ability to have moral courage, show up with empathy and be kind to one another.”