Sep 24, 2013
Last Friday night, for the first time in my eight plus years covering high school sports, I had a chance to visit Richmond County and see a varsity football game at Raider Stadium.
What struck me after the game was how consistent the Raiders football program is. The program does not rebuild, they just reload year after year.
After doing some checking, I realized that Richmond usually fields a fairly competitive team in most every sport they offer. I began to wonder, what are the key elements to having a successful athletic program?
Let’s be clear what I mean by a consistent athletic program. I’m not talking about winning a state championship in every sport you field, or even winning the Wells Fargo Cup each season. I am basically looking for a program that finishes in the top three or four of each sport and puts a quality product on the field of play.
Here are some of my key elements (in no particular order) to what you need to find a consistent, relevant athletic program:
• A competitive football program: Most everyone knows that fielding a football team that competes and wins games is key to the overall health of your athletic program, not only to get the name of your school out, but also to put butts in the seats. Football is what drives your athletic department from a financial standpoint and supports teams who otherwise would not exist.
• Quality coaching: Obviously you need quality athletes to put on your teams to aid your cause, but more than talented student-athletes, you need quality coaches who not only know the game, but realize the true purpose of high school athletics. Coaches need to relate to their players, but they must respect and communicate with coaches of other sports too. It becomes vital to the health of the athletic department for coaches to support other sports and encourage young athletes to have as many athletic experiences as possible.
• Administration: It has been my experience that a successful athletic program starts from the top. Typically where you see a successful athletic department, you see a principal who understands the importance of sports and realizes how athletics breed community involvement and school spirit, which are part of the fabric that makes up a quality program. By the same token, the principal and athletic director must have a solid relationship that presents a solid front and standard for coaches and players.
• Booster club: Along the same lines as administration is the involvement of booster clubs within each athletic department. The amount of money given to each school by its respective school system is not even close to the amount needed to run a successful program. That’s why booster clubs are so important to the achievements of the young men and women on the playing field. Booster clubs are like the team behind the teams and quality booster clubs do more than just sit back and raise money. They volunteer at the games, help purchase new uniforms, equipment, help with facility renovations, and basically support the school as best they can.
• Community support: This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the booster club point. When I look at what I saw in Rockingham last Friday it amazes me how the whole town turns out on Friday night to see what those 50-60 young men can do on a football field. While I realize what they have in places like Richmond and Scotland Counties can not be duplicated in the Triangle area, the schools who are consistently at the top of its respective conference have a following that encompasses the entire community. My goal is not to make this a narrative about the lack of support for our schools, but only to point out how vital the support of local businesses, families and municipalities are to not only the success of the athletics, but to the school as a whole.
I hope that you were able to identify with some of these elements and relate them back to your favorite school. As we all know, high school sports are an extension of the classroom and I can not think of a better place to learn than on a successful athletic team.
Do you have other key elements you’d like to share? Shoot me a note on twitter at @Chris__Edwards. I’d love to have your input.
Follow Chris Edwards on Twitter @Chris__Edwards