Guest Article from Dave Miceli, Director of Athletics, Burr and Burton Academy

Clarity of Purpose

Knowing who you are makes it easy to know what to do when you are faced with a new situation. You simply do the things that are in line with your core values.

A week before this spring sports season was to begin, we received word that schools would be temporarily closed to in-person education. As the situation progressed, that order was extended through the rest of the school year. On April 30—six weeks since the original start date—the sports season was officially canceled.

This unprecedented situation has created some unique opportunities to continue using education-based athletics as a vehicle to help young people on their journey to become their best possible selves. For the coaches at Burr and Burton, the tools to connect with their athletes had changed overnight, but they found success by sticking with our values.

Baseball Coach Ed Lewicki held a senior day and personally delivered photos and hats to each senior’s house. Photo credit: Kristi Lewicki.

We Continued to Work Out

Athletes want to compete. Therefore, coaches developed workout programs that both challenged athletes to stay in shape and created opportunities for growth.

Our boys’ lacrosse program divided their athletes into groups of four and assigned a captain to each squad. The season was divided into three rounds to keep athletes motivated. During the first round, 23/30 athletes who signed up had completed 100% of the workouts. A couple of athletes decided to drop out along the way, but of those who remained, only one athlete missed only one workout in Round Two, and in the final weeks, all 28 of the remaining athletes completed 100% of the daily workouts. Beyond the physical benefits, the athletes experienced teamwork and accountability. With seven squads and seven captains, there were multiple leadership opportunities available to the athletes that would not have existed during a regular season, in which there are typically only 2-3 captains.

We Continued to Connect

Athletes want to connect. Athletics builds our communities, and this season was no different. The challenges of connecting remotely were met head-on by many of our teams.

We instituted new traditions, like the Ultimate Lunch and Talking Track. Both were weekly meetings that gathered teammates together for low-key connection. Although their sports season had concluded a couple of months prior, even our girls’ hockey team got in on the remote connection with a Trivia Night. Their coach said it felt “just like a bus ride” as the girls played, talked, and recharged. We held TikTok contests, and a host of other team-bonding experiences.

One of the teams that had the strongest connections was our Unified Basketball team. Athletes and partners met weekly. In addition to workout programs, they discussed nutrition and productive ways to use their increased time at home. They checked in with each other, told stories, and laughed together.

We Continued to Compete

Our girls’ lacrosse team took their workout competition directly to their opponents. They challenged teams across the state to match their workouts. Athletes self-reported workouts on a master spreadsheet. Each team gained points for the workouts they completed. At the end of the season, a winner was announced, and prizes were distributed. I am happy to report that BBA took first place amongst the nine teams that competed.

Taking competition one step further, on what would have been game day with our biggest rival, our coach and the Mt. Anthony coach both took to Instagram for a skills competition.

We Continued to Grow

Athletes want to grow and evolve. Our coaches used the extra time to break down game film from previous seasons. They watched college and professional games together remotely. There were “chalk talk” sessions, and video feedback on pitching and hitting. We had skill challenges wherein athletes sent in videos of their feats of skill and challenged their teammates to do the same. Even the headmaster got into the act with a “tennis anywhere” video using surfaces throughout our campus.

One particular area of growth that our coaches addressed was the mental game. We all know this is a vital part of athletic success, yet so often, it takes a backseat to physical development. This season, we hit it hard. Athletes learned the value of meditation, positive self-talk, goal-setting, daily habits, etc. Coaches taught these skills themselves or brought in guest speakers to instruct the athletes.

We Continued to Serve

Athletes want to be of service to others. At this point, many of our athletic programs traditionally participate in service projects as a team. This season, these projects were completed closer to home. Sprinkled throughout the competitions were points awarded for helping around the house, cooking, doing yardwork, or safely assisting neighbors and the larger community. One of the teams even had a “cleanest room” competition.

Not everything we tried succeeded. One of the better ideas that never gained traction was an effort to make masks to distribute to those who didn’t have access to PPE. It turns out that very few households have sewing machines.

Additionally, many athletes chose not to engage in these activities. I struggle to account for the athletes who chose not to engage. Did they not need the connection? Were they feeling so lost that they couldn’t even motivate themselves to engage? In a regular season, these were the students you would see in the hallway or cafeteria and stop for a few seconds of conversation to see how they are doing. I unfortunately never found a virtual replacement for that.

Still, I am inspired by the efforts that my coaches made to continue teaching the valuable lessons offered through education-based athletics.

We Continued to Lead

Building better people and leading by example are core values of our program, so we adapted to our circumstances and kept our core values in place.

Coaches play a pivotal role in the growth of our student athletes. Crisis or no crisis; our purpose is to resource our coaches to make the success, safety, and wellbeing of our athletes what really matters.

-Dave Miceli is the Director of Athletics at Burr and Burton Academy