Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Great Fall Season to Be a Spartan Athlete!

Great independent schools have strong athletic programs. Several years ago, the National Association of Independent Schools (the member association to which Gaston Day belongs) did a large study to identify early predictors of success in college. The results surprised me at first, but not so much upon further reflection. The number one predictor of college success was how early an independent-school student took their first algebra class--no real shock there since math is fundamental to a good education. But the number two predictor of college success had nothing to do with academics. Instead, the number two early predictor was participation in high school athletics. Athletics teaches self-discipline, goal setting, tireless preparation, competitiveness, resiliency, team work, and how to receive constructive criticism. These are qualities that lead to success in college and in life.

School athletics not only teach valuable life skills, they are vital to school spirit and student satisfaction. Teammates become friends and form important social bonds. Students celebrates athletics, and attending home games becomes a source of excitement and fun.

This fall sports season has been especially enjoyable. The boys varsity soccer team was one of the best in school history. The team was the first to ever advance to the NCISAA State 2A Soccer Tournament Final Four Playoffs, this year held in Fayetteville. Gaston Day School ultimately lost in the semi-finals to Carolina Friends School (Durham) 1-0 in overtime. It was a wonderful game that our team nearly won. I drove down to the game to be part of the excitement.

Earlier in my career here as head, Gaston Day's boys and girls varsity soccer teams rather routinely went to the 1A State Soccer Final Four. I always attended and began to take for granted that going to the Final Four was part of my annual school calender. Then Gaston Day's enrollment grew, and the school was promoted into the larger and more competitive 2A classification in state athletics. Suddenly, playing bigger and better schools, the GDS soccer team did not make the state playoffs for several years, and it dawned on me that I might never have the privilege of going again. It was sweet to be back, and I savored the whole experience as I drove down and watched the game at Fayetteville Academy. Those lean years have made me appreciate just how special it is to have a championship-caliber soccer team.

Our other fall sports also did well. Our Girls Varsity Volleyball team made the state playoffs for the first time in recent years. We hosted the 2A State Volleyball Tournament here at Gaston Day, and Athletic Director Casey Field, Assistant Athletic Director Josh Lutkus, and their colleagues delivered a first-rate event. The Girls Varsity Tennis Team is made up of very young and very talented players. Watch out for them in the next several years--I predict great things are ahead. And Coach Beth Allen produced another outstanding Varsity Cross Country team. Our middle school teams were strong across the board as well.

With eleven years of perspective, I believe this was one of the best fall sports seasons that we have ever had at Gaston Day. Congratulations to our coaches and athletes for providing the rest of the school with so many thrilling moments and happy memories. Now we turn to the winter season and basketball. More thrills and more fantastic games are on the way.