Go Advent Panthers—Reflections on Advent Athletics

Jon Kresena
Hello, Panthers!
 
What an amazing and busy year for Advent Athletics! I’d like to take a moment to share some insight about our athletic program and share some fun statistics about our athletes!
 
This has been our busiest year yet! We have averaged 175 athletic events each month this year including both practices and games and our registration is way up from this time last year. Our Panthers have competed to their highest ability and have made Advent very proud! We have experienced tremendous change and growth over the last several years and are excited that through this progress we have experienced success—something our athletes and families should be very proud of!
 
What does “success” look like within Advent Athletics? As the athletic director, my perception of success is from 30,000 feet. Through the view a very wide-angle lens, it is my responsibility to oversee the things that help make the overall program successful. Success from an administrative perspective involves registration percentages, returning athletes percentages, returning coaches percentages and, the overall growth and sustainability of the program. As parents of young student-athletes, your definition of success is likely different. We hope that parents and players understand that our collective success as a program is not based on winning (even though we do win a lot of games!). As stated in our mission statement we are here "to engage the mind, to elevate the spirit, and stimulate the best effort of all who are associated with Advent Episcopal School”—this is where our success is rooted. I believe all of our stakeholders are standing by our mission and are competing with the best athletic programs—both public and private—in the city.
 
I’d like to share some of the statistics that demonstrate how we measure our success and achieve our goals:
 
  • 152 - Student-Athletes
  • 76 - Play multiple sports
  • 82% - Students who play sports at Advent (54% unduplicated)
  • 7 – Sports offered
  • 29 – Teams (Fall and Spring)
  • 40 – Coaches
  • 5 - Undefeated Seasons (2018/19)
  • 6 - Tournament Champions (2018/19)
  • 8 – Championship Appearances (2018/19)
Parent investment in the athletic program—time, talent, and treasure—is critical to achieving our goals. In reaching those goals, we are able to enrich our student-athletes to become better students and world citizens. Advent appreciates everything you do for our student-athletes. 
 
Advent is proud to be able to sustain such a high level of academic achievement, commitment to the arts, as well as athletic success. Support for these elements—from all stakeholders— is critical. Whether you’re attending the 2nd grade play, the 8th grade play, Lesson and Carols, or French convention, it is no surprise that our students love to perform in front of crowds! The same amount of support is needed for their performances on the court or field. Our students thrive when they see their family, friends, and teachers at their games. I want to thank you for all of the support you have shown Advent Athletics and I look forward to continuing to see strong support as we finish out the year!
 
Go Panthers!
 
Jon Kresena
Director of Athletics
 
Below are a few additional things we like to keep in mind for our program:
 
Enjoy the ride and don't stress over the scoreboard.
Interscholastic sports has a very short lifespan. We usually find that the experience is over not long after it begins. The ups and downs of every day all melt into the past quickly. What seems important today becomes trivial tomorrow. With that in mind, we should always be reminded to enjoy the precious time to witness and enjoy our athletes during the formative years. Winning is always important, but the final score of contest pales in comparison to the lessons, friendships, and skills that young people develop during the process of athletic competition.
 
Look at the big picture and help our athletes to do the same.
We as teachers, coaches, parents, and athletes often develop a form of tunnel vision. All we can see is the immediate outcome of every situation. We must all strive to look at the big picture. We always need to attempt to view the positives and negatives through the lens of educational athletics. If we can stress and teach this skill to our athletes, many "problems" of everyday life will slowly fade. Long-term development is key! Just being able to participate in athletics may help your student in various different ways.
 
Allow our students to guide his or her athletic path.
All of us have our students’ best interest in mind. However, sometimes we develop a mission or goal that is not what our student really wants. We, including athletic directors, need to listen to the wants and needs of our students. Oftentimes we desire a path that is not the same one envisioned by the athlete as future goals and aspirations are assessed.
 
Provide emotional support for your athlete.
Sometimes, the best thing for us to do for an athlete is to just be there and support. After a great win or an emotional loss, a friendly face is the best tonic. We all need to be at our best when our athletes experience failures on and off the court. A friendly hug is often the best elixir for that. We all provide a guiding hand to help the athlete cope with loss and learn from success with humility. 
 
You don't have to cheer or coach: Just be there.
This is a hard one for all of us, especially me. An athlete can experience great things in athletics and we often want to be on the same emotional high with the athlete. But sometimes that can produce more pressure than assurance by their approach to every game as if it is a state championship. If positive re-enforcement is called for, it should be applied as needed. If a calming influence works best for your student-athlete, just our presence can be enough. An elevated level of emotion on our part is not the most important trait. Just being there is often what the athlete needs the most. Sometimes a hug from a parent, as I witnessed at a very intense basketball game against Highlands, is all that players need to continue.
 
Praise more and critique less.
Our athletes feel the pressure of competition throughout their practice and game routines. Coaches and teammates are their toughest critics. Sometimes, after the game is over, the athlete wants to escape that pressure for a short while. The drive home or the evening meal is not the time to break down the good, bad and ugly of the previous game or practice session. Again, positive thoughts that serve as praise are much more effective than critical statements that can often feel like piling on.
 
Our athletes are individuals and so are his or her teammates.
This is another tough one for me. I firmly believe in, "there's no I in team". BUT we often look at athletes and their teammates as they would those on the collegiate or professional playing field. All too often, we forget that our students are young and developing adolescents that are not ready for the spotlight. Some love the spotlight and attention; some do not. Treat each athlete as an individual and give them the respect they deserve. Criticism of teammates can be just as damaging as criticisms of your own athlete.
 
Do not let the family suffer in the name of athletics.
This one hits home for me. I traveled quite a bit in my high school, college, and professional years for soccer and did not see my family much. Quite often, extreme pressure is generated by high expectations on the part of the coaches and administrators. Allow the opportunity for your family to enjoy quality time together away from the athletic arena. Family time at games is great!!! I love seeing the whole family at volleyball matches, soccer games, cross country meets and/or basketball games cheering! But only if balanced with family experiences that have no connection to athletics. Sometimes we all need to get away from the grind. 
 
Be supportive of others on your team (parents and athletes).
Not every athlete can be the star. Not everyone handles a situation the same. It is important that we all support our athletes and parents as if they are our own immediate family members. I have seen it here at Advent and it such a blessing to see! The same support that a parent expects for his or her own child, should be shown to the parents and players on their team.
 
Be supportive of those that serve your child (coaches, officials, etc.)
Our first job is to support our own students, athletes or children. Closely behind that job is to support all that serve our athletes. Whether it is the coach, administrator, trainer, team mom, or referee (as hard as that can be at times), all need the same level of support as our student-athletes. If a student sees a lack of support or respect for those who serve, they will begin to develop a similar lack of respect. This lack of respect will foster an unhealthy perspective on the concept of education-based athletics.
 
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Founded in 1950 and located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, Advent Episcopal School is a coeducational, college-preparatory day school for students grades Pre-Kindergarten through 8th.