Superintendent’s Weekly Check-in, September 7

Superintendent Matthew HaasDear Colleagues:

A thought for next week: “We were born to love, and we were born to have courage for it. So be brave, the rest is easy.” — John McCain

Good Friday morning!

Last night, I was reading some research from the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), and I found out that just over five percent of young men and about seven percent of young women high school cross-country runners go on to compete at the collegiate level. You may be wondering why I was curious about that. Well, on Wednesday evening, I attended the Ragged Mountain Cup out at scenic Panorama Farms in Earlysville. It’s an annual invitational cross-country running event that officially kicks off the season for pretty much all the public and private high schools in the Piedmont region.

Given the heat and humidity, the Athletic Directors pushed the start time from 5:00 to 6:00 for a cooler temperature and less sunlight. The race is unique because it is a relay with four runners, each running a very challenging two-mile leg. If you want to experience the course yourself, you can run the Kelly Watt Memorial Race, which is generally the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

So, when I got to Panorama, I started talking with Steve Heon and Deb Tyson, Athletic Directors for WAHS and AHS, and I was just in awe of the young men and women lining up to start this race. Their nervous energy and focus pervaded the air around us. The intensity and galloping charge of the start and the roar of the crowd of parents, coaches and teammates filled the fields. What a sight! After that, each runner parsing out effort and running on fumes when passing the baton to the next fresh athlete was a reality show worthy of primetime television.

I’m so proud of these hundreds of young athletes and all their peers laying their skills and efforts on the line daily in practices and competitive events. Nationally, nearly eight million high school students participate in athletics, and about 480,000 of them go on to compete in college. So, clearly, our youngsters have reasons far deeper than post-high school aspirations driving them in their sports. Among those reasons, I believe, is their inherent drive to never give up. Learning to never give up or to give in to disappointment or failure is one of those life skills that can be achieved through athletic competition.

Among the dozens of teams racing at Panorama on Wednesday, leaving sweat and effort along the course, only one team would win. Many of those with aspirations to win would have to deal with losing and come back another day to race. This lesson has to be learned, and I think our students are looking for places to learn it with caring and demanding adults for mentors, often coaches. Our athletics programs are one place to learn to “fail up,” as we say, and so are many of our curricular and extra-curricular offerings when a formative approach is used for student development.

I encourage all of our elementary, middle and high school teachers and staff to get out to a high school sporting event and/or performing arts or academic challenge competition this year to see what our students can do at a very high level. Their focus and excellence counters every negative stereotype we see and hear about “today’s teenagers.” It’s inspiring.

One final note: A high school coach’s job is not to win games or simply teach players the sport. A coach’s job is to teach students about life. If coaches keep this in mind and emphasize what is important, they will have a profound effect upon their players’ character development.

Just checking in,


Matthew S. Haas, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Your mission and my mission every day is to establish a community of learners and learning, through relationships, relevance and rigor, one student at a time.