Athletics Culture and Philosophy

By Kim Eng, Director of Athletics

HOLY SMOKES! IT’S ALREADY BEEN nine months since I started my journey at Eastside Prep, and man, what a fun ride it has been! And why is my job so fun, you might ask? It’s because of the very factor that drew me to EPS in the first place—helping a very young and promising athletics program, wrestling with growing pains, move to the next level.

In this first year, I have learned so much about the culture of EPS and what makes this school so truly unique. For starters, it’s clear that everything we do and every decision that gets made is centered around our TALI mission. It’s not just mumbo-jumbo or lip service. We think. We act. We lead. We innovate. And I’m striving to apply these principles every bit as much to the athletic future of the school as my colleagues are applying them to all other school activities, functions, and disciplines.

For those who may be wondering, the current goals of the athletics discipline are very simple. We want to increase our competitive excellence without compromising our character, integrity, and sportsmanship. We want to remain a participation-based program with a no-cut policy that allows every student—no matter their athletic ability or experience—to feel welcomed and part of a team. We want students to acquire important life skills such as teamwork, discipline, respect, perseverance, and leadership. We want students to reach outside their comfort zones and embrace new challenges. We want teams that win state championships. We want teams that are able to learn valuable lessons from losing seasons. We want students to have a lifelong love of physical fitness. And most importantly, we want our student-athletes to look back on their Eastside Prep sports experiences and think, “Wow that was fun!” and, “I’m so glad I played sports at EPS!”

What have I learned in my nine months at EPS? While we have a great athletic foundation to build upon here at EPS, the process of achieving these goals is not going to be an overnight process. Scaling up the program to where we ideally want it to be is going to take time, patience, and perseverance. And yet, I’m convinced that we’ll have a remarkably fun ride along the way and I plan to make it a point to celebrate all of our incremental successes. I mean, who wouldn’t want to celebrate when you have such incredible students, passionate parents, enthusiastic coaches, and supportive faculty and staff joining you as fellow “passengers” on this transformational journey?

Kim Eng and parents cheer on Eastside Prep’s Ultimate team from the sidelines.

Hopefully it hasn’t gone unnoticed that one of our top priorities to date has been to increase transparency around athletics and open up the lines of communication with parents, students, and teachers. We want to make sure that every student-athlete has a great experience when playing on an EPS sports team. In order to do that, we need to collaborate closely with teachers, athletes, and parents…listen to their concerns…value their opinions…and welcome their suggestions. I’m proud of the commitment we’ve been making to include more voices in the process and ensure that everybody is kept abreast of any changes that are impacting athletics throughout the school. One of the key reasons our communications efforts have improved is Angie Sharp, Assistant Director of Athletic Operations. Her tireless commitment to handling the day-to-day logistics has freed me up to think more strategically and to concentrate on other key factors of athletics such as promoting our program; recruiting/hiring/evaluating coaches; ensuring WIAA compliance, increasing our Parent Association and Student Government involvement; improving parent and student communication; and representing EPS at the League, District, and State levels.

The Parent Association has been amazing, truly, and I am excited to share (for those who haven’t heard) that we now have a Lead Sports Booster (thank you, Cindy Goetzmann!) who is helping promote excitement, involvement, and pride around athletics within our parent community. We have parents volunteering to take on the role of team parent, planning team meals and outings, recording games and taking stats for coaches, and most importantly, packing into the stands in support of their kids and their teams. We could not run this program without our parents’ help, and I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for everyone’s involvement and generosity of time.

In addition to all of the behind-the-scenes work that’s been happening in athletics, it’s perhaps even more exciting to notice that our teams are competing! While again, winning certainly isn’t everything, it’s undoubtedly more fun to play in (and attend) games when you have a shot at contending. This year, it seems like every time an EPS team steps out on the court or field, we are competitive and the outcome of the game can’t be taken for granted. Our athletes have made a lot of EPS history this year and set a lot of records!

Change can be difficult and there are certainly challenges ahead of us. Athletics isn’t the be-all, end-all of every student’s existence. However, it is my belief that in order for athletes to build character and benefit from all of the wonderful experiences and lessons that playing a sport has to offer, commitment is non-negotiable. Getting all students and parents on the same page—and clear about the new principles, processes, and expectations being put in place—will take communication and time. Some old habits and beliefs about sports might have to be set aside in order to make room for the new systems we’re trying to create. Angie and I are committed to leading this charge and working with our community, in whatever capacity necessary.

In closing, here’s my athletics-related wishlist for the close of the 2018-2019 school year and beyond. If I were to wave a magic wand, I’d love to ensure that:

  • All students have a positive athletics experience when they participate on an EPS team
  • All students, parents, and coaches learn to win and lose gracefully.
  • EPS teams win (at least a little) more than we lose.
  • All students and parents support what we are doing and why we are doing it.
  • All students, no matter what their athletic ability, join a sport and have a great time doing it.
  • We build programs, set records, and continue to make EPS history.
  • Our Middle School students look up to our Upper School athletes and aspire to be like them one day.
  • We grow our “fandom” throughout the Eagle community, making our sporting events even rowdier and more rambunctious, and the place to be.
  • We create an EPS athletics culture and philosophy that we are all proud of.

Hopefully the above thoughts provide you with a better sense of who I am, where the EPS athletics program is headed, and the exciting plans we have in store for both sports participants and supporters alike in the months and years ahead. It’s so rewarding to see the great strides we’ve made already—honestly beyond even what I would have anticipated, thanks to so many of you—and yet, just to beat one final sports cliché to death, let’s not forget that change is a marathon…not a sprint!

Right: Kim Eng and parents cheer on Eastside Prep’s Ultimate team from the sidelines.