If not the politically sensitive term village, those not soiled by subjectivity would agree that educating young people is indeed a collective effort, especially nowadays as it concerns character and leadership.
To that end, city and school leaders and the district’s sports coaches gathered Wednesday at Lamar High School to orient themselves in the lessons of a program designed to give student-athletes a unique learning experience through a partnership between the Arlington school district and the world’s most valuable sports franchise.
Rather than the three R’s or X’s and O’s, the InSideOut Initiative is working with the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL Foundation on a character education pilot program for school-aged kids in Texas and Colorado.
Arlington is the first in Texas to implement the program across all boys and girls sports.
Almost 400 coaches assembled for the first of two days of a training seminar in character and leadership development for their athletes.
I believe we’re going to be able to look back in 10 years and see the impact it’s made in our community. We’ve grown these leaders to serve in the community and be an example.
Arlington school district athletic director Kevin Ozee
The school district was awarded nearly $30,000 from the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation to support the training initiative founded by Joe Ehrmann, a former Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts player who facilitated the training.
“Winning is a byproduct of everything else we do,” said Kevin Ozee, the school district’s athletic director. “As a community, we’ve got to figure out how to get beyond some of the issues our kids are facing before we can even coach them. Hopefully, we’re building a platform. Many of the coaches are already doing the leadership-type stuff. This ties it all together so we’re all speaking the same language from the same mind-set.
“I believe we’re going to be able to look back in 10 years and see the impact it’s made in our community. We’ve grown these leaders to serve in the community and be an example.”
The start of the day was a pep rally of sorts with expressions of support from school district Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams and Police Chief Will Johnson.
Beginning in February, the Cowboys, in conjunction with the UIL and the Texas High School Coaches Association, hosted meetings with key superintendents and athletic decision-makers from across the state.
I think the core values of every coach is not only to win games, but create and teach character and leadership.
Arlington Lamar boys basketball coach Jarrett Howell
Ozee said his bosses, particularly Cavazos, jumped on board immediately, directing him to “make this happen in Arlington.”
The goal is a program in each of the NFL’s 32 markets, said Charlotte Jones Anderson, a Cowboys executive vice president who is spearheading the effort from the offices of the Cowboys and the NFL Foundation.
The Cowboys have also partnered with the Arlington school district on an arts program.
“This program aligns so well with our district and what we’re trying to accomplish with young people is that beyond the academics, the athletics or fine arts, we want students be good citizens who will go out into the world and contribute back,” Cavazos said.
“Sometimes in sports that gets lost, and we’re making sure in this program that it does not get lost. … that it’s up front. This is why you are competing.”
From the point of view of the Cowboys and the NFL, the initiative is also a matter of putting their money where their mouth is, considering vows to crack down after high-profile character lapses in the league while also building a foundation of education for the rare few who make it to the NFL.
“We realized that we had such a natural conduit to influence character development,” Anderson said. “That needs to start way before we get the players. Where is that influenced most? It’s in the school system. If we already have that kind of connection maybe we could get a character program and emphasize character first maybe we could start to change the culture a little bit.”
The InSideOut Initiative was widely successful in Minnesota, where Erhmann and InSideOut executive director Jody Redman implemented the program. Anderson said the NFL Foundation has also partnered with the University of North Carolina for follow-up studies to assess its value as a teaching tool.
“I think the core values of every coach is not only to win games, but create and teach character and leadership,” said Lamar boys basketball coach Jarrett Howell, before noting the double positive. “At the end of the day, those things are what win games. Having kids that are great teammates, leaders in the classroom, that are unselfish.
“This initiative will be huge for Arlington. It gives us the footprint and planning and the information we need to put that across to students.”