How Does A High School Athletic Program Become Great?

I have often wondered what makes excellence in high school athletics? I grew up in an high school that demanded excellence in all of their sports programs, boys and girls. But, it was not always that way. Actually, when I attended this high school, our school was very average in sports. But, during my senior year, something magical happened. It just seemed like all of our sports teams started to get better and better. We won the state championship that year in both boys basketball and football. The next year, the school won state in football, track, cross country and girls tennis. After that, my high school has never looked back. What happened? How did we go from being average to being great? What was the tipping point? Was it just a great class of kids? Was it the coaching staff? What happened?

Well, before I Get There, Excellence In High School Athletics Is Earned…

By comparison, many years later, I know of a high school that is just the opposite. Academics in the school are great. I really believe the teachers, administrators and coaching staff are terrific. And… so are the kids. But, on the athletic field or court, they just don’t have it. They finish at the bottom of the pack every year in every sport. Why? How can one school set records for the number of state championships, while another school sets records for the number of losing seasons?

I have had the fortune of being involved with both types of athletic programs. You would think that being involved with a winning program is much easier. I would beg to differ. Being involved with a winning program is much tougher than being involved with a losing program. It’s tougher on the administrator, the coach staff, the parents, and especially the players.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Here’s Why It’s Tougher…

Being involved in a winning athletic program demands excellence. Everyone in a winning program knows that winning requires a total commitment to excellence. Winners don’t take shortcuts. Winners come in early and stay late. Winners work-out in the off-season. The community demands winning. The school demands winning. The parents, the school administrators, the coaches… they all demand winning. In order to win… everyone must do their job. It’s just not performance on the field. That is actually the end result of each person’s everyday effort to reach the same goal… to win.

But, how does a high school get to that position? How to you go from bad to average to great. I believe it starts with the school administrators. The administrators of the school must develop this attitude. This attitude must then be demanded of the entire coaching staff. Being average is no longer an option. If the coach is not willing to demand excellence, to put in a 110% effort toward the development of their sports program… they are out. The coaches need to develop their current high school players. And… they need to work with the middle and elementary schools to develop their feeder program. They need to understand… being average is no longer an option. Period.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Parents Are Key…

After you get this attitude down with the coaching staff, the school needs to move on to the parents. A culture change needs to happen. Some people say this takes time. This is total nonsense. Excellence in athletics needs to happen now! The school needs to step up and tell the parents how things are going to change. The school needs to ask the parents for their help. Make no mistake, if the athletic program is going to change for the better, the parents must be a big part of the change. The school needs total buy-in from the families. Everyone needs to understand that winning comes with a price. If everyone is willing to pay the price… winning will happen. The school might not win the state title every year, but more kids from that school will play sports in college, and the school will see a huge positive difference in their athletic program.

To get this all going, it takes one person. One person in authority at the high school needs to stand up and say “enough!!!.” Until that happens, nothing will change. One person needs to stand up. In my school is was the athletic director. In other schools it might be the principal. But, it always starts with one person.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Getting Back To the Losing School…

The losing program just does not have the commitment. It’s that simple. When you go to meetings, it’s always time to hear 100 different excuses why they can’t compete. The culture of winning is just not present. The difference maker, the one person who starts it all… does not exist. In the losing program, no one runs the program. In the losing program, no one is willing to stand up and make a difference. So, what happens… because the school does not demand excellence, that attitude filters down to the coaches, the parents and to the players. If they win great, but if they lose… well, that’s what they expect anyway.

Excellence in high school athletics starts at the top. It’s an attitude. To win you must be willing to pay the price. It’s really that simple.