I am a lifelong Red Sox fan. Despite the fact that my beloved team did not win a World Series until I was in my 40s, I followed them through decades of near-misses, tumultuous seasons, management changes, ace pitchers and local heroes, loving the game even when the Sox did not reach the playoffs. Baseball is the only professional sport that I follow with this level of attention.
However, when it comes to amateur sports, and Middle School athletics in particular, I am a year-round season-ticket holder for all sports. In the course of my career, I’ve coached field hockey, cross-country, basketball, and track, almost exclusively with girls’ teams. Since I arrived at Dana Hall, I’ve made it a point to attend as many games as possible. My favorite Wednesdays and Fridays are the days when I can rotate around the fields and the Shipley courts to watch multiple contests at the same time. There is no better way to unwind after a busy schedule of meetings, classroom observations, emails, and decisions than to cheer for “my” girls from the sidelines. I will also admit that my day is always improved when the Dana Dragon makes an appearance, because really, who doesn’t love a furry mascot?
On any given afternoon, our venues might be occupied by “A” teams of seasoned players, “B” teams and development teams, as well as non-competitive sports like rock-climbing and fitness. A few of our teams (swimming, riding, fencing, and hockey) span the entire 5th-12th grade range of Dana Hall School. Some Middle School girls have played for years and inhabit their game with the comfort of veterans. Others are trying a sport for the first time, handling new equipment and learning a range of athletic and sportsmanship skills.
The values that we emphasize throughout our curriculum are on full display during athletics: perseverance, determination, grit, collaboration, and joy. To all of those attributes I would add one more: optimism. I have seen this positive confidence countless times during the year. The 6th grader needed to be optimistic to believe that she could plunge into the pool with the confidence that she could hold her own against girls who had the advantage of several inches in height and several years in age. The 7th grade field hockey player needed to be optimistic when she strode out to play sweeper the first time. There were the young fencer and the young squash player who both amazed me on the same day when they faced strong opponents and won their matches. And my favorite example of the year: The tiny 5th grader who needed to be optimistic when she hurled the basketball toward the hoop from mid-court with only seconds remaining on the clock. She did not make the shot, but the memory of her effort is one of my favorite highlights of the year.