The deaths of three-dozen Chicago Public School students to violence so far this academic year has the city seeking ways to better produce healthy and productive citizens. One area of focus already being looked at is coaching.
With about one-quarter of CPS students involved in athletics, coaches work with, and influence, more than 100,000 students. The city’s Department of Sports Administration wants to make sure that influence is a positive one.
In March, the Chicago Board of Education decided all coaches must complete a mandatory training program designed to teach them how to instill character in their student-athletes. It’s a move meant to emphasize the fact that interscholastic sports programs don’t exist solely for athletic competition but is also part of the educational process.
“The coach can play a major role in being a mentor for so many young people,” said Calvin Davis, the department’s director.
“Coaches,” added Isaac Carter, CPS’s high school sports manager, “are teachers. It’s important for them to use sports as a tool; to use sports as a way to teach good character.”
But oftentimes coaches are not trained to be teachers, explained Daniel Wheeler, the coordinator of sports at the Josephson Institute Center for Sports Ethics.
The nonprofit organization developed the Pursuing Victory With Honor training program. All current and new CPS coaches will have to complete the program. It is the same program U.S. Olympians went through before they left for Beijing last summer.
“It teaches schools and school districts to use sports as another avenue to build character,” said Wheeler of the 12-hour course.
So Davis and Carter went out to Josephson in Los Angeles last July to go through the program. Last fall, they brought members of the institute to Chicago to train 40 CPS administrators. If funding comes through, which Davis is 99 percent sure will happen, those administrators will teach the program to the district’s 3,000 coaches.
But not all coaches like the new mandate.
“It’s a band-aid, and it’s not going to hold,” said Bob Geiger, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School’s girls track coach.
Instead of training coaches, Geiger said the district should reconsider the quality of coaches hired in the first place, referring to a recent paddling scandal among some CPS coaches. But Davis pointed out that the training had been planned long before the paddling incident became public.
Regardless, starting this summer, every coach will have to go through the program.
“Coaches really need to think about what really matters when you’re unable to bounce the ball,” said Carter. “And what really matters is your character.”