Leaders in Character Development Through Athletics
by Joe Maury, PCA-Tampa Bay Resident Intern
Hillsborough County Public School District, the eighth-largest school district in the United States, is home to some of the nation’s top student-athletes. While on-the-field performance drives attention to these student-athletes, Hillsborough County is just as focused on ensuring that student-athletes achieve success in the classroom and community. It was this mission that made a partnership with PCA a natural fit.
Hillsborough County Public Schools Director of Athletics Lanness Robinson was determined to keep the school district’s primary mission the centerpiece of a partnership with PCA. “Hillsborough County wanted to create an intentional culture of excellence where coaches understood that their role extended well beyond the athletic field or court,” said Robinson. “Our objective is to ensure that athletics supports the mission of the school district, which is to provide students the skills necessary to succeed in life. PCA helps us attain that objective.”
All high school coaches in Hillsborough County Public Schools are required to attend an annual PCA workshop. After years of building relationships, coaches have come to value the lessons learned through discussions with PCA certified trainers.
“As you might imagine, some coaches initially viewed the PCA workshops as a remedial requirement akin to sensitivity training,” said Robinson. “Now that many of them have six-plus years experience with PCA, they view the workshops as providing a framework to build a positive culture and ensure positive outcomes for everyone involved -- coaches, student-athletes and parents."
Robinson expanded the PCA partnership by integrating workshops for student-athletes and parents beginning in 2013. This year, 635 student-athletes who have previously demonstrated leadership skills were nominated to participate in the PCA Character and Leadership Development Program.
This is an opportunity that we are providing student-athletes to keep Hillsborough County Public Schools on the leading edge of athletics in the state of Florida
Robinson stated. "We believe that through PCA we’re providing our coaches, student-athletes and families with a cultural development program that is unique throughout the state of Florida and will ultimately lead to an athletic program that is more closely aligned with the goals and objectives of the school district."
Through the work with coaches, student-athletes, and parents, Hillsborough County Public Schools has continued to find innovative ways to improve the culture of high school sports. By committing to this mission, they have set a standard that goes beyond wins, losses, rankings, and athletic scholarships. Success is measured by the post-graduation accomplishments and achievements of student-athletes years after they have finished their playing careers.
To understand PCA's impact in the schools and communities, even beyond athletic competition, consider these remarks from Jeff Eakins, Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools: “PCA-Tampa Bay’s programming is an important component of building a strong culture within Hillsborough County Public Schools. The skills student-athletes are learning in the areas of conflict resolution, leadership, behavior management, as well as modeling great character are key messages these students learn in the PCA Character & Leadership Development Program. As leaders amongst their peers, participating student-athletes take these skills back into their schools and the ripple effect of positive culture creation moves beyond playing fields into classrooms, hallways and the broader community.”