Bonds formed between players and coaches in high school locker rooms often play a vital role in the development of young athletes. During a time in which coaches and players are unable to meet and interact regularly because of social distancing in the effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, many have struggled to find ways to connect.
The Colorado High School Activities Association has worked to foster those relationships digitally during a time in which COVID-19 has shut down athletics. Last week, CHSAA football coaches held an online clinic to interact with each other. Beginning Monday, coaches and players will have free access to the 2Words Character Development, a six-week program from Stephen Mackey of Texas. Access will be provided to coaches through an email from CHSAA as well as instruction sent out via MaxPreps.com.
“A lot of kids are missing the normalcy of dealing with coaches and teammates. We want them to have a way to communicate at this time,” said CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright, a former athletic director of Durango High School. “Right now, the Xs and Os stuff is off the table. So, let’s teach beyond the game with life skills and those things.”
Mackey had provided the program to those in the Texas High School Coaches Association. Bright, who had coached football in Texas before he came to Colorado, reached out to see what would be possible for Colorado. Mackey was happy to provide the service free of charge.
“My driving force is to help coaches and athletes connect the dots between sports and life,” Mackey said. “The lessons learned through sports – not technique, strategy or the scoring of points but the life skills of mindset, attitude, integrity and having a personal code that says, ‘Who I am is more important than what I do’ – those are what athletics teach us and the lessons that help us be successful in anything in life.
“When I started to see schools close down and students not have access directly to their coaches, we asked the question of how we can serve and help kids. All the work we do, it’s a digital platform, so this was a great opportunity for us to open it up to coaches. A coach is no doubt one of the most influential people in the lives of a student. Coaches spend more time with high school kids than almost anybody else. I wanted to equip coaches to help their kids in this time.”
The six-week program will run through the first week of May and will give students taking online courses a way to still feel connected to athletics after school. Mackey said if the closures created by coronavirus go beyond that, he will keep working with schools to provide assistance wherever he can. He has supplied complete programs with no obligations to schools or coaches.
Durango High School football offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Woolverton participated in last week’s CHSAA coaches clinics that helped connect the football community and also brought together coaches from Colorado and Texas with a different phase of the game in focus each day. After a week of interacting with the network of coaches, Woolverton said he is fired up to begin the character development courses with his players.
“It’s about being a five-star person instead of a five-star athlete,” Woolverton said. “It’s another way for us to reach the kids and make them think. Any way we can help these kids physically or mentally the better. There is so much uncertainty right now, and we are so used to seeing these kids every day year-round in some capacity. This is the longest I’ve gone in my eight years with Durango High football that I am not seeing the kids to some capacity. I am hoping this program can help some kids and help us coaches get on track.”
A new week’s worth of lessons will be provided each Monday. The first week focuses on commitment. The instruction covers specific lessons for coaches, captains, athletes and even for families. It includes videos and documents to guide and encourage thoughtful conversations. There is also a quote of the day that correlates with each lesson plan. Mackey said the lessons are centered around six pillars of goal setting, growth mindset, grit, personal code, work ethic and servant leadership. He called the lessons an invitation and a call to action. When athletes do eventually get back to competition, it can help them in athletics and beyond.
“It’s something schools can use for all teams to give the students something different than biology and algebra to work on at home right now,” Bright said. “They get to stay connected with athletics, and that is important right now. These can be hard times for mental health, so let’s see what we can do to help.”