Coaching Management, 12.6, August 2004, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1206/bbfaculty.htm
Like most athletic directors, Joe Skowronski has watched plenty of pre-game ceremonies. But in 2002, he saw something that impressed him so much he wasted little time in duplicating it at his own school.
What Skowronski viewed was Faculty-Staff Appreciation Night, held annually at Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing, Ill. Before the game, each TF South football player was accompanied onto the field by a faculty or staff member he had personally chosen to honor. The faculty or staff member was outfitted in the playerís road jersey, which he or she also wore during the school day.
"I saw that and said, ĎWow! What a great idea,í" says Skowronski, Athletic Director at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Ill. "It was so nice to see the faculty and staff members together with the students. It seemed like a great way for students to show respect for their teachers, or other people in the building, who had maybe changed their lives a little bit."
Skowronski began using the program at Eisenhower that winter with the boysí and girlsí varsity basketball teams and the varsity cheerleaders. "We sent a notice out to all the faculty and staff members in the building that this was going on," he says. "We told them that if a student asked them to participate, they could either accept or decline, but I didnít hear of anybody who declined. Everybody Iíve talked with has been tremendously positive about it."
Skowronski knows firsthand what being honored in this way can mean, since he was selected by a cheerleader. "Iím also a dean here, and I never thought that this person would choose me because I had to give her some grief during the year," he says. "It showed me that even though there were some things that had gone on, she still had respect for me. It really meant a lot."
"In athletics, you understand the role youíre playing, but sometimes a teacher who isnít involved in an activity doesnít really understand how much of a role model they are to certain individuals," adds TF South Athletic Director Robert Mitchell. "When a player comes up to them and asks if they would do this, Iíll tell you, itís an ego boost. A couple of our teachers got tears in their eyes because they were so flattered by it. They said, ĎMy gosh. I didnít realize this student liked me that much.í Itís a great bonding experience."
Nate Beebe, Head Boysí Basketball Coach at Eisenhower agrees. "You always have a couple of players who are a little hesitant, but overall the kids really enjoy it," he says. "Sometimes theyíll even brag about who they have representing them. I donít get too involved in the selection process, but I do push them to put some thought into it."
One area that the players usually donít consider is the fit of their jerseys. For staff members who canít fit into smaller jerseys, and those chosen by cheerleaders, Skowronski produces four-inch buttons, which the honoree wears throughout the day. The buttons read: "Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day Honoree" with the name of the athlete and his or her sport.
Beebe wholeheartedly encourages other coaches to try the idea at their school. He also has a few tips for making it a successful event for all involved. "Start your planning well before the season starts so you can find the right date," he says. "We usually do ours on a Friday night in late January or early February when the season has been in full swing for a while. Also make sure to let the students know early so they can let their teachers know early. Teachers may have other engagements, but if you get to them early enough you can avoid most conflicts."