October 28, 2019 will be another important day for education-based athletics in Tennessee as the Tennessee Titans will host another day of InsideOut Initiative workshops for schools across the state. More than 100 schools have attended at least one training since the initiative began last year and about 100 faculty members attended the first meeting of the year last month, but as Bernard Childress, executive director of TSSAA says, there's room for many more schools to become involved.
"With some of the things that we're seeing lately, I feel like high school sports and youth sports in general hasn't necessarily gotten out of control, but if we don’t turn this around it could be headed in the wrong direction," Childress said. "What we want is for everyone involved in educational athletics to take a critical look at the definition of winning. The InsideOut program does this and helps coaches to be transformational coaches."
The goal of playing sports is to win, Childress insists, but the purpose, he says, is different.
"Everybody wants to win; no one goes into a game intending to lose. As school people, we have to be our kids biggest cheerleaders and emphasize the positives of sports participation. Winning is the goal, but the purpose of sports is to teach character, teamwork and healthy lifestyles. Those things can and should happen regardless of what the scoreboard shows."
Over his years as a player, coach and administrator, Childress is mindful of the viewpoint of the student. The feedback one can get from students, he says, can be very revealing.
"When you ask kids, and there's research to back this up, you find out that the number one reason young people quit sports is because they stop having fun. We’ve got to make this fun."
One goal of the InsideOut Initiative is to give coaches and administrators ideas on how to change the sports culture in their communities.
"We’ve got to let young people know that we support you 100%, win or lose, so go out there and have fun and compete. Kids do not have fun when they see a loved one being escorted out of a contest, making a scene or screaming at people while they’re out there competing with their teammates. There’s no way you’re going to tell me that that kid can have fun in that type of environment."
Childress hopes that every school and school district in the state will become involved in the program.
"We’re very concerned about sportsmanship; that’s a major part of what we do. And also, a part of sportsmanship, is encouraging ethics, integrity and character. Those things have got to be instilled in young people and our schools have a responsibility to help do that."
School principals or other administrators who have questions about the InsideOut Initiative should contact Mark Reeves, Assistant Executive Director for TSSAA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-889-6740.