As an athletic director at your school, your role reaches far beyond simply scheduling games and handling logistics. You are capable of creating and maintaining a positive TrueSport-focused culture that revolves around good sportsmanship, character development, life skills, and healthy performance.
Here, Vicki Vaughan, Director of Athletics at The Colorado Springs School and a longtime contributor to TrueSport curriculum, shares how she has worked to shift culture within athletic programs throughout her career.
1. Understand the TrueSport pillars
TrueSport is based on three primary cornerstones: sportsmanship, character building and life skills, and clean and healthy performance. These principles support a healthy youth sport culture, as well as lifelong athletes, coaches, and families. All ages are impacted by these principles, as there are many lessons to learn about sportsmanship and healthy performance within every sport across all age groups. “No matter the age, every athlete needs to be reminded about how to be a good sport with winning and losing,” states Vaughan.
2. Provide support for coaches
These three pillars seem simple as coaches are expected to promote good sportsmanship and keep athletes healthy. But coaches are not always equipped with the knowledge or skills to ensure healthy performance. For instance, some are not experts in nutrition or sports psychology, so it is important to help coaches attain the education they need to support the whole athlete. “As an athletic director, I’m always trying to assess what content is needed for coaches as well as the athletes,” Vaughan says. “You can’t assume that everyone has an understanding of things like athlete nutrition, concussions, performance imagery, or injury prevention.” Athletic directors should help connect coaches to experts who are better equipped to teach athletes about managing performance anxiety, enhancing performance, or recovering from injury.
3. Look at current values
It is also important to consider how the school’s current set of values aligns with the TrueSport culture. For example, if “winning a state title” is the only value or goal for teams, and outcome-based goals are the primary standard for success, those focuses are likely to conflict with emphasizing good sportsmanship or using teachable moments to build life skills. “Coaches and parents alike need to understand that sportsmanship, life skills, and skill development are more important than any win,” Vaughan says. “And that means aligning the values of the school and department to reflect that. This also requires hiring coaches that share our philosophy and coach to the process rather than the outcome.”