Friday, October 19, 2018

STAB Athletics Review

St. Anne's-Belfield School
Dear Friends,

I write today to inform our community that we are embarking on a year-long, community-wide discussion about the School's interscholastic athletic program. This dialogue grows out of our Strategic Plan, which includes the following goal:

Become a model school for developing student-athletes and for creating a healthy, competitive, child-first, mission-appropriate interscholastic athletic program.

We are proud of St. Anne's-Belfield School's distinguished history of athletic success and are determined to continue this tradition by continuing to offer a successful program that reflects the high expectations of our community and celebrates athletic excellence. Thus the purpose of engaging in this community-wide conversation is to define what it will require for us to be successful, to be a model school in terms of interscholastic athletics, and to articulate concrete action steps to achieve such a vision.

As we remain dedicated to offering an all-around exceptional experience for our students, we are keenly aware of the changing nature of high school sports broadly, and several opportunities and challenges unique to St. Anne's-Belfield. An important part of this process will be educating everyone about these factors and how they impact our own programs and reflect our values. These include the rise of specialization and year-round sports; club and travel teams and their relationship to high school programs; the inducement and recruitment of student-athletes between schools; competitive parity among schools with differing missions; the growing needs of interscholastic athletics despite limited financial and human resources; and many more. We wish to unpack all of these with our community and use our findings to inform what kind of program we wish to offer our students.

Moreover, we want this process to conclude with absolute clarity about the kind of athletic program we will offer and why. As we wrote in the introduction to the Strategic Plan:

. . . [Y]ou also told us that the School should not aim to be all things to all people, and in fact we heard just the opposite. We all want what is best for our own children and for each individual child, at the same time we accept that the School cannot and should not promise an experience catered to every family's unique educational vision. . . . [I]t is our goal that people will take away from their reading of this Strategic Plan an understanding of exactly who we are today and who we aim to be. We recognize that some may read this plan and decide that this is not the right school, while others who had a different impression may decide to come visit us. Regardless of varying levels of agreement, we want everyone to know where we stand philosophically and, with this plan, where we are headed strategically.  

This aim for clarity and an exhortation to join us were the goals of our plan, and they are also the goals of this discussion about athletics.

We are determined that this discussion involve the entire community, and that any and all voices are heard.  Not every recommendation will be adopted, and not every opinion will be incorporated into the final recommendation, but I assure you that we will listen to everyone.

Co-chairing this community-wide dialogue will be Lauren Hagans P'30, P'32 and Rich Booth P'11, P'15, P'18. Lauren graduated from U.Va. in 2000 and was a member of the U.Va. Women's Basketball team. Rich is a Trustee Emeritus and former Chair of our Board of Trustees, a 1982 graduate of Cornell, member of Cornell's baseball team, and parent of former student-athletes at the School. In order to maximize the listening and learning and encourage broad participation, Lauren and Rich will aim to reach out to all of the constituencies of the School over the course of the year.

To this end, I ask that you note the following opportunities to engage with Lauren and Rich. Each of these will serve as a design-thinking session, in which attendees will bring feedback and ideas to the conversation in an effort to build consensus around a vision for athletics and articulate ideas for action.
  • Parents' Association General Meeting (winter)
  • Athletic Boosters
  • Parents' Association Board
  • Upper School Faculty
  • Learning Village (PS - 8) Faculty
  • Alumni Board of Directors
  • Strategy, Program, and Policy Committee of the Board of Trustees 
  • Board of Trustees
  • Student Captains' Council
Other meetings will include athletic staff, coaches, the Physical Education Department, and other smaller focus group gatherings of students, alumni, and parents.

Please also be on the lookout for a constituent-specific survey, which will come to many of you sometime over the course of the school year. I am excited to share that our Upper School AP Statistics students will be creating and issuing these surveys, which provides an ideal opportunity for them to apply what they are learning to this important undertaking. These students will take pains to guarantee statistical validity, so if you do receive a link, please complete the survey so that we maximize our response rate.

Our intention is to be transparent with our process and with the outcome. By fall 2019, the Board of Trustees will review the recommendations from Lauren and Rich and formally adopt a vision for interscholastic athletics and an action plan to make that vision a reality. These will of course be shared with our entire St. Anne's-Belfield School community.

Thank you in advance for your involvement in this process and for your support as we aim to fulfill this important strategic goal. I look forward to keeping you apprised of our progress.


David Lourie
Head of School
St. Anne's-Belfield School