INSIGHT: Engagement in Athletics – How Important Is It?

By Kim Eng, Director of Athletics

How many of us are waiting with anticipation for the Caitlin Clark/Paige Beuckers matchup tonight? I am a huge basketball fan and March Madness is my favorite time of year due to the amazing basketball that is being played, the exhilarating buzzer-beaters, and the inevitable upsets. In fact, ever since I was a little girl, I have yet to get through the “One Shining Moment” video at the end of the tournament without a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes.

Which begs the question: how did these teams get here and secure their place on the biggest stage in college basketball? Of course, having a superstar helps. But it is so much more than that. The key to a successful team is having athletes who are engaged. Their hearts and minds are “all in” in terms of the role they are playing and the school they represent.  Attitude also plays an enormous role. The teams that are the most successful are those with athletes who are emotionally and intellectually motivated, enthusiastic about their role on the team and the contribution that they’re making, and most importantly, having fun. They aren’t typically known to whine or complain, seeking out excuses for when things don’t go their way. Instead, the most effective athletes make every effort to support the team’s goals and create a positive, team-focused experience for everyone else around them.

Equally important, however, is the connection teams feel to their coaches. Engaged athletes buy into their team’s goals, put in the extra work, and trust that the person leading them is doing their absolute best to set them up for success. In return, the best coaches are those who understand the importance of frequent and positive communication, building trust, and showing care for each individual athlete. They forge a connection with their team that goes beyond merely X’s and O’s—bringing contagious energy and passion to each practice and showing their athletes that they are equally committed to achieving greatness. It’s a quality I always look for, first and foremost, when hiring coaches for EPS—and I’m proud to say that I see this characteristic demonstrated on a daily basis.

Many kids all over the world will have their eyes glued to the TV this weekend, watching their role models and idols compete in the one-of-a-kind environment that has come to be known as March Madness. We can’t underestimate the impact these athletes and coaches will have on our students’ mentality, determination, and perseverance levels. Watching Caitlin drop 40+ points, deliver pinpoint passes and catapult her team to the Final Four is already a monumental achievement and is guaranteed to inspire thousands of young athletes (boys and girls alike!) to train harder and get more engaged in their athletic pursuits.  And who knows? Maybe an EPS student will be the next Caitlin Clark one day…