Wrestling camp offers lessons about character, life

Students at a private Philadelphia school are taking part in an annual wrestling camp that’s designed to help them perfect their character as much as their wrestling techniques.

According to Chestnut Hill Local:

In the basement of Smith Gym, an historic building with character that may remind some of underground gyms in the Rocky movies, campers learn new wrestling moves from their coach and guest athletes from all over the world. In its ninth year, this coed camp not only allows kids to master wrestling techniques and new moves, but also encourages values of integrity, respect, and hard work through fitness and friendship.

Wrestling camp director Paul Hammond told the news site the sport taught him dedication and focus, and he hopes to impart those virtues to students. He explained how wrestling can teach kids about patience and time-management, working as a team, treating opponents with fairness and kindness, and respecting their peers as well as themselves.

“I love that kids can let their summer energy out in a safe space, test and push themselves, and have a lot of fun,” he said.

Campers also learned life lessons and wrestling tips from top wrestlers, including Olympic wrestler Kazem Gholami, a Division 1 American University grappler turned Mixed Martial Artist Nick Kilstein, and others from local universities.

Gholami, who has used his platform to speak out against Iran’s social injustices, discussed single-leg takedowns, how to create angles, and timing, while also stressing how hard work and dedication in wrestling can transfer to other aspects of students’ lives, the news site reports.

“Our wrestling camp is a unique, active experience for kids to sharpen their competitive edge, practice focus and drive, and make friends,” German Friends School athletic director Katie Bergstrom Mark said.

“It was the first of its kind in the city and the program has grown immensely over the past nine years, offering campers access to former world and national caliber coaches and athletes, in addition to wrestlers from local universities,” she said.  “I am thrilled to see Coach Hammond put his own unique twist on the program and make this physically and mentally challenging sport a ton of fun.”

The wrestling camp is an example of the type of specific culture officials are cultivating in the German Friends School – a culture that ultimately shapes how students live their lives.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, explains the following on character formation in “The Death of Character.”

“Spartan and Athenian cultures prescribed different content for character, not least because they had different ideas of the common good,” Hunter wrote. “In other words, moral cultures and the communities in which they are established provide the reasons, restraints, and incentives for conducting life in one way rather than another.”

The Positive Coaching Alliance offers resources for educators, parents, coaches and school officials to help create “better athletes, better people” through sports.

“In addition to 1,500+ free audio-video and printable tips and tools at www.PCADevZone.org, PCA has partnered with roughly 3,500 schools and youth sports organizations nationwide to deliver live group workshops, online courses and books by PCA Founder Jim Thompson that help those involved in youth and high school sports create a positive, character-building youth sports culture,” according to the PCA website.


Pro boxer teams with schools to create ‘Safety Guides’ for bullying

Stuart Maddox learned a lot about bullying growing up in a children’s home.

Now a professional boxer, Maddox is working with schools in his native United Kingdom to create guides about bullying and other social issues facing students.

The 38-year-old from Lostock Hall is helping to create a series of “Safety Guides” for a Personal, Social and Health Education curriculum that are designed to promote students’ self-esteem and physical and emotional health, as well as respect for themselves and others, Blog Preston reports.

Titles in the series include “Road awareness, bullying and staying safe online,” “Bullying – victim or bully? Bullying stops with you,” “Child grooming” and “Drugs and alcohol – The facts.”

“Being a victim of bullying as a child due to living in a children’s home, I want to do all that is possible to help prevent this,” Maddox told the news site.

“I got involved with Safety Guide through my good mate Rob Reid as I strongly believe in what they’re trying to achieve with the anti-bullying among other subjects that they are covering.”

Maddox, also known by his “Mad Dog” nickname, is well-known in both boxing and bare-knuckle fighting, but he’s also made headlines for helping students who have been targeted by bullies.

When a video went viral of 12-year-old Daniel Edmondson being attacked by older students, Maddox invited the boy to train at his gym to help restore his confidence.

“I got bullied as a kid but when I started boxing, it changed my life around because I was able to walk away from fights confidently,” Maddox told the Daily Star.

Maddox’s involvement in the anti-bullying effort is a type of corporate sponsorship that plays an important role in character formation in schools.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed to the role of school practices and connections to the community in The Content of their Character, a summary of research into character education in a variety of different schools.

“How a school is organized, the course structure and classroom practices, the relationship between school and outside civic institutions – all these matter in the moral and civic formation of the child,” Hunter wrote.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue offers lessons for parents and educators to help students develop the skills and virtues to combat bullying.

A lesson about “The Virtue of Friendliness and Civility,” for example, encourages students to be “sociable and personable companions.”

“Students who understand friendliness and civility “are able to accept and praise the right words and deeds of others, whilst rejecting and resisting those that are harmful to themselves or others,” according to the lesson.

“They are able to be open-minded and tolerant of others, but can challenge in non-confrontational or non-aggressive ways when words and deeds are morally unacceptable.”

Who we want to be is the key to how we will act

With regard to developing people of character, I start from a simple premise: identity drives behavior.

My Stanford Business School professor, Jim March, stressed that the best way to get people to change their behavior is to get them to change their sense of who they are and want to be. Rewards and punishments have drawbacks—rewards are expensive, and punishments make people angry.

But identity is clean. Who we want to be is the key to how we will act.

I experienced this myself. From 1987 to 1998, I was Director of Stanford Business School’s Public Management Program. My goal was to inspire MBA students to make public service leadership part of their lives.

As I introduced incredible agents of social change to my MBA students—such as Ashoka’s Bill Drayton and John W. Gardner of Common Cause—I realized I wanted to be like them, which led me to embrace a new identity: social entrepreneur.

A conversation with Jim Collins (before he wrote Good to Great) planted the seed of a BIG idea in my mind—forming a social enterprise to transform youth sports so sports can transform youth.

Collins asserted that most new companies are started by individuals in an industry who see firsthand where possibilities lie. My coaching experience had alerted me to a huge opportunity: Youth sports’ endless procession of teachable moments makes it the ideal place to teach character. And our country desperately needs people of character.

But a win-at-all-costs mentality pollutes youth sports, making coaches and parents less than ideal role models for athletes. I wanted to change coach and parent behavior by harnessing the power of identity and creating a movement to use sports to develop Better Athletes, Better People.

Positive Coaching Alliance has developed an aspirational identity for youth athletes: the Triple-Impact Competitor,® who elevates self, teammates, and the game by the way he or she competes. Or, for short, an “Elevater”—a new word for a new identity. An Elevater is a person of strong character who looks to elevate every situation he or she is in.

A clear vision of the self I wanted to be had motivated me to take on the enormous challenge of layering a world-class character education on top of the vast infrastructure of youth sports with millions of athletes involved.

And, of course, it was hard. I spent a lot of time those early days lying on the couch in my Stanford office curled up in the fetal position, asking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

What kept me going during those dark moments was wanting to live up to my new identity and be the kind of person who could make it happen.

Wisconsin K3-12 Montessori school builds community

A Milwaukee public Montessori school’s multi-age classrooms—and one-building K3-12 approach—is creating a unique learning community that allows older students to mentor their younger classmates.

MacDowell Montessori School Principal Andrea Corona told the Shepherd Express that MacDowell started in 1976 as the first public Montessori elementary school in the state. She discussed how a decision to expand to a charter high school in 2006, and merge it with the elementary school in 2012, is building a stronger learning community.

“The nice part about being a K-12 school is we have a prime opportunity for vertical alignment of our curriculum. We’re all here in the same building and we can talk,” Corona said.

“It gives you the opportunity to build community in a way that most schools don’t have. Some of the students that are graduating this year were here since they were 3 years old, and that’s really special . . . We try to build opportunities for them to be leaders and for them to showcase their skills,” she said.

Corona explained that the school is structured based on Montessori founder Maria Montessori’s focus on the three-year developmental plans, with students with the same teacher for three years to build consistency, community, and leadership skills.

“For example, in our K3 through K5 classroom, the K5s are the stewards of the environment and the community,” Conora said. “The younger students have to ask them for help and guidance. Each time students transition to a new developmental level, they get to work to become leaders again.”

The community building extends well beyond the classroom, as well.

“For example, last year, two of our varsity boys basketball players coached the elementary basketball team,” Cornoa told the Shepherd Express. “We also give older students opportunities to work as tutors with the elementary level students; and we have a Big Brothers-Big Sisters program.”

The principal said the Montessori curriculum requires students to work independently and in small groups, while encouraging them to take control of their own learning.

“For example, if I’m giving you a lesson about currents in the ocean, you may get extraordinarily interested in the science of currents, you may get interested in the doldrums and how ships used to get trapped for months, and you might start researching historical stories about how that happened. Each individual student has the opportunity to follow their interest and explore content in a way that’s most meaningful for them,” Corona said.

The approach, combined with traditional offerings like the International Bachelorette program and partnerships with local arts and science groups, is leading to impressive academic results at the small school.

“Two years ago, we were recognized for academic rigor by The Washington Post,” Corona said. “We were really pleased to be ranked number 27 in the state of Wisconsin for academic outcomes—especially considering that we graduated a class of 32 students that year, and we don’t have an admissions requirement. We just couldn’t believe it. We felt like the Little Engine that Could.”

MacDowell Montessori is a prime example of successful pedagogical schools that use strong traditions and a focused vision to guide students.

David Sikkink, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame and lead researcher of pedagogical schools for the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s School Cultures and Student Formation Project explains the impact on teachers and students in the book The Content of Their Character:

[O]ften teachers were viewed as custodians of the moral tradition of the school and its place in a larger movement, as journeymen in the daily playing out of the school society. Students entered not only the school doors but the larger traditions in which the school organization was given meaning and direction.

At MacDowell, students are living a tradition of developing deep content knowledge while actively mentoring younger classmates.

Skikkink’s research into character and citizenship formation in pedagogical schools is featured in the new book The Content of Their Character, available in February. The Content of Their Character, which also highlights research into nine other sectors of American high schools, is currently available for pre-order at a discount.

H.S. Football: West Milford seniors pay it forward

West Milford High School football coach Don Dougherty is teaching his players how to “Punt, Pass & Read.”

The New Jersey coach told NorthJersey.com that when he took over as head of the varsity team in 2012, his focus was as much on devising offensive and defensive strategy as it was on what his players are doing off the field.

“From the beginning I felt the need and importance for our student athletes to give back to their community,” Dougherty said. “I wanted to put academics and athletics together for a good cause. Introducing that combination to the younger kids in our community makes a lot of sense and it promotes the importance of education and hometown pride.”

The effort also puts school sports in the proper context as a model for life, one that shows students there’s more important things than the numbers on the scoreboard.

Six years ago Dougherty launched the “Punt, Pass & Read” program to get West Milford players into local elementary schools, where they spend two days reading to youngsters throughout the school district.

Now, the program is spearheaded by seniors on the team who don their game jerseys to visit all six of the district’s elementary schools. Each year, they spend about an hour at each school reading to and talking with students, and the result is bringing the community closer together, they said.

“It’s really cool to see the students’ reactions and their smiles when we walk into the classrooms,” said senior captain A.J. Bakunas. “It means a lot to them for us to come in and read and just spend time with them. I know about this program when last year’s seniors participated and it’s something I’ve looked forward to being a part of.”

“I saw a lot of joy and smiles on the kids’ faces,” added senior Dylan Purdy. “They all wanted to interact with us and I thought that was great. I hope this program makes the kids want to read more. The younger students look up to us as role models and if they see their idols interested in reading hopefully it will want them to read more.”

Dougherty contends local elementary students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the program.

“The entire week is a humbling experience. It allows the seniors to reflect and see where they came from and how far they’ve come as student athletes. We’re constantly preaching hometown pride and staying home. This program touches on everything and it’s something we plan on continuing for years to come,” he said.

“All the students and staff at the schools really embrace the program and it’s something they look forward to every year,” Dougherty told NorthJersey. “The younger students ask the players for autographs and the teachers get to spend time with their former students who are now seniors in high school. It’s just a rewarding experience for everyone involved.”

Parents “want their children to develop into loving, morally upright, and hard-working adults who preserve close ties to their families,” according to the “Culture of American Families” report from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

Parents believe that “fame, athletics, popularity, and power matter little in the larger scheme of their children’s lives,” so it’s a powerful dynamic when athletics can be a means to forming the good character that parents want for their children.

The Positive Coaching Alliance helps coaches, leaders, and parents understand double-goal coaching: winning and teaching character.

HS football ‘man builder’ lessons tackle off-field growth

Fruita Monument High School coaches want their players to think about the kind of people they want to be, and to apply weekly “man builder” lessons both on and off the field.

“It’s the real part of coaching,” assistant coach Cameron Ross told The Daily Sentinel. “Football is great and it’s important, but it’s a small piece in the scheme of things. It’s through football that we get to teach them these life skills, these things off the field, and those will be with them the rest of their lives.”

Fruita coaches infuse the weekly character education lessons into the team’s routine, helping students to view the sport as a microcosm for life. The lessons, coaches said, are designed to focus students on the true purpose of athletics in schools, and to set students up with a strong moral foundation that will serve them well beyond graduation.

Amid a national controversy involving NFL players taking a knee or refusing to stand for the national anthem, the Fruita Monument Wildcats recently streamed into the school’s stadium for a game against Denver South High School with American flags in hand.

The experience was accompanied by a “man builder” discussion with Grand Junction Police Sgt. Lonnie Chavez, a member of the department’s honor guard, about the symbolism of the flag, proper handling etiquette, and parallels between his work as an officer and students’ roles on the football team.

“I want to impart that the choices they are making now will affect them later in life,” Chavez told the news site. “When they’re presented with that one marijuana joint, that one drink, taking pills, asking a girl to send nudes, things like that; those are things that society says are acceptable now, and I want them to know that there’s a little bit of respect left there and that respect is something you need to bring on board with you in life.

“If you take that respect and make an honorable choice,” Chavez said, “it really pays off later in life.”

The sergeant said his childhood in a military family showed him why it’s important to respect veterans, and his time as a police officer offered further insight into the symbolism of the American flag. But the lessons, including the recent talk about the flag, have more to do with respect than politics.

“As a member of the honor guard, it’s important to know what it is that you’re carrying,” he said. “Do you know what you’re carrying? I’m not talking about taking a knee, raising a fist or anything like that. All things being equal, if you understand why you’re kneeling, I have a ton of respect for you. If you understand what you’re carrying, what you’re standing for, I have the same, equal amount of respect for you.”

Chavez’s recent talk is among a wide range of subjects covered during the season. Some of the discussions are led by coaches, others by guest speakers like Chavez. Students take notes during the “man builder” sessions to reflect on what they’ve learned, and several said they’re better for it.

Lineman Daniel Haas said the lessons have helped him “grow off the field,” according to The Daily Sentinel, while kicker/receiver Marcus Mosnes said players have “become better men” thanks to their coaches.

“You learn from (the coaches) and other experiences,” Mosnes said. “We just learn to be better people. Sure, there are going to be challenges in life and stuff, but there are always ways to face it.”

The efforts in Fruita are also the types of intentional character education lessons students rely on to shape not only their worldviews, but also the moral fabric of their lives.

James Davison Hunter, sociologist at the University of Virginia, explained why that’s important in his most recent book The Tragedy of Moral Education in America:

So we are not born with moral understanding, a worldview that gives coherence to life, or ideals to guide our lives. These are what culture provides us, through the overlapping communities into which we are socialized. First among these communities, of course, is the family, for it is as very small children in the context of our families that we begin learning what is right and wrong, and why.

But families generally don’t live in isolation; rather, they are part of a larger network of social groups and institutions that typically include faith communities, schools, volunteer associations, and the like, which together form a moral ecosystem or moral culture.

The nonprofit Positive Coaching Alliance recognizes the role of coaches as part of the larger social network that strongly influences students’ character, and advocates for the kind of “double-goal coaching” making a difference in Fruita.

In The Power of Double-Goal Coaching, Alliance founder Jim Thompson explains why coaches should embrace their roles to “transform the culture of youth sports to make it a positive, character-building experience for every youth athlete” and lays out practical tools they can use to help students in a variety of athletics.

Backed by a national advisory board that features Olympic Gold Medalists Brandi Chastain and Summer Sanders, as well as 11-time NBA Championship coach Phil Jackson and others, the Alliance also offers live workshops, online courses, and other programs specifically for parents, coaches, athletes and school leaders.