By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
A high school coach has a responsibility to provide support for players in the classroom. Coaches should set an example that high school athletes are students first, and playing football is the reward for excelling academically.
Derek Youngblood, athletic director and football coach at Williston-Elko High (S.C.), has never had a sophomore start the season academically ineligible.
Youngblood offered his 10 tips for making academics a priority.
Mandatory Study Halls.
“We have mandatory study halls the entire year. Each position coach has to designate which day is a study hall for his players.”
Homework Before Practice.
The Williston-Elko practices start at 4:15 p.m., giving players almost two hours to work on homework before practice. “If I have a kid struggling academically, I’ll assign him to a study hall more than one day a week.”
Reach Out to Teachers Early.
“One thing I do is send out a roster to teachers of all kids participating in fall sports. If they ever have an issue academically, they’re supposed to let me know.”
Ask for midterm reports. “At the midterm point, I get a copy of all transcripts for participating players, and I get the same thing after the final. If I have a kid that needs more, I get weekly reports.”
“I let the players and teachers know I’m there to help.”
Set Aggressive Goals.
“To me, it’s important they’re more than just eligible. It’s more about earning a high school diploma.”
Reward Success in the Classroom.
Youngblood gave any player that earned an 80 percent or above in a class a helmet sticker.
Promote Academic Success on Social Media.
Youngblood congratulates any athlete who made the Honor Roll on Twitter.
Get Parents Involved.
Youngblood opens the line of communication with parents to ensure players are doing the right thing at home.
Lead by Example.
Youngblood teaches an ACT/SAT prep class for football players on Mondays from 11:40 a.m. to noon.
Set an Example
Nick Bolyard has served as an assistant coach at various high schools in Ohio, and he maintains that the coaches who have the most success in motivating their players to excel in the classroom are the coaches who genuinely prioritize academics.
“I do a grade check,” Bolyard said. “They take a sheet to teachers who sign it. I also check their online grades to make sure. We have parents sign it. It requires effort and support.”
There’s no way of faking your way to a high team GPA, Bolyard said. Coaches have to show how much they care before their players will take it seriously.
“If the head coach hasn’t bought into it, the assistants won’t either,” Bolyard said. “The head coach has to set the tone that academics are important. Talk is cheap. We have to show them with our actions that it’s important to us.”
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