Creating CharacterStrong Athletes

Written By: Enterprise Middle School

As a coach at Enterprise Middle School, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing students through soccer, volleyball, basketball, and baseball.  Teaching and coaching young people is part of who I am.

At a recent basketball game against our city rivals, we found ourselves at the precipice of a unique CharacterStrong opportunity unlike many others.  On this day, we seemed to overwhelm them in all phases. It felt like it was just our day. EMS was winning big at halftime! Seems like a nice story, if you’re a Wildcat fan.  But at halftime is where this story takes a special twist.

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The coach came over to me and asked if I would ask my team to play “fake defense” for one of their players. This opposing team’s player had been with the basketball program for two years and had not scored a single basket during the entire time they played. He was less athletic and coordinated than the other students.  However, you could see that while basketball was not his sport, he was clearly trying his best. Seeing the opportunity to make someone else’s day seemed too good to pass up so I presented the proposal to my team. My players were ALL IN and willing to do something extraordinary in the world of sports.

As the EMS players took the court we noticed the “player” from the other team had taken the court.  In fact, he was in a good spot to score! We played fake defense but he was unable to make the shot. This happened again and again. Finally the time came where he got the ball, the EMS players played great “fake defense” and the kid scored! The crowd went crazy after seeing what was going on.  What a cool moment...but wait...it gets better. The player's mother was in attendance that day. I learned later that she generally worked long hours and hadn’t been able to see any of his basketball games. Not only did the Enterprise players provide a moment for this athlete, but he scored again! In the end, Enterprise won the game big, but not a player on either side was worried about the score. This moment that was created is one I hope he will never forget.  And the positive feeling that everyone experienced watching and participating in the game will be with us for quite some time.

I truly believe that intentionally focusing on CharacterStong, teaching the ideas of working on one's character, seeing teachers greeting at the door and having the advisory class contributed somewhere in my player's heads. The students, together, understood that some moments are bigger than a game. That there are times when your character is being tested. Each player out there understood that they had a chance to show their character and came through in a big way. The next day at practice, my players went on like it was any other day. They did not take a moment to bring it up or tell everyone about it, they just participated in practice like any other day. To me, this felt like the ideas of showing good sportsmanship was just second nature to them. Like, “yeah coach, glad we got that kid a basket, it's no big deal.” And while our school took a few moments to recognize the actions of my team, isn’t making kindness normal what all schools should be striving for?

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 About the Author: Enterprise Middle School is located in the Richland School District in West Richland, WA that has 700 students in a growing district. They started using the CharacterStrong advisory and leadership curriculums this year and have become one of our flagship schools, showing what can happen to a building if they put their focus on relationships.

Before bringing the curriculum in, they assembled a rockstar team who did a lot of work to plan out implementation of the advisory and leadership curriculum. Their principal and guidance counselors wanted to train their staff on the curriculum so they hosted a CharacterStrong training at their school also bringing in teachers, administrators and counselors from surrounding schools.