Training young athletes to excel in a sport is something that every coach does, but at Camp Verde High School, both coaches and athletes are learning that character-building may be even more important.
The school entered into an agreement three years ago with an organization called Character Matters, which provides curriculum and training for coaches and athletic teams in teaching character qualities to their athletes.
“This program has been an important part of what we teach our kids at CVHS,” said the high school’s athletic director, Mark Showers. “Currently all three of our winter sport programs are using the Character Matters program.”
The program, which was developed by Wade Salem, founder and president of the organization, teaches coaches to bring purpose and clarity to their coaching character. It encourages coaches to take a fresh look at why they coach and rejuvenates them in their responsibilities and influence, according to the Coaching Matters website.
The presentation also challenges student-athletes to look at the significance of character and discover the qualities needed to be a complete student-athlete.
“Wade once told me that in today’s society we train kids with the skills to obtain jobs but fall short on the skills [character] that allow them to retain those jobs,” Showers said. “Most people, when they lose a job, they lose it based on character — not showing up for work or making a bad decision. It’s usually not a skill-level kind of thing, it’s a character issue.”
The Cowboys’ coaches work with the athletes on a yearly theme, and the qualities that supports that theme, Showers said. This year, the theme is THE STANDARD — an acronym meaning Truthful, Hard work, Enthusiasm, Selfless, Tenacious, Attitude, Next step, Discipline, Attentive, Respect and Dependable.
“Every week of your season, you introduce a character quality,” Showers said. “And within the curriculum [Salem] provides to us are different building blocks, different questions, things you can do to support and work with the kids on that particular character quality.”
Showers first got the idea to use the program after watching a presentation by Salem at an athletic directors’ conference in Prescott three years ago. He showed it to Camp Verde High School Principal Bob Weir, who liked it enough to incorporated it into the advisement curriculum at the school.
“I started thinking about the setup here in Camp Verde and the lack of parents,” Showers said. “A lot of our kids are either from single-parent or no-parent families, so they don’t have a lot of direction. So I thought, ‘This is something we’ve got to do.’”
CVHS allows its coaches to use the program on a voluntary basis but, currently, all three of the school’s winter sports programs are using it.
“The idea that learning character through athletics is just something that happens by osmosis — that isn’t the case and we’re seeing that across the nation. You start thinking about the kids you’re coaching, the kids you’re competing against and you think about things just a little bit differently in terms of that,” Showers said. “We thought it was real important for our kids and we wanted to use it as more of a focal point.
“Wins and losses are important, learning the game is important, but learning character is a whole lot more important than all that.”
For more information, visit the Character Matters website.
For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Dec. 4, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.