Boys Town is right in the middle of its winter sports schedule, and the excitement of watching our boys and girls compete and have fun can really heat up a frigid night in Nebraska. Whether it's boys or girls basketball or boys wrestling, there are many opportunities to cheer on our Cowboys!
It takes a lot of patience and dedication to coach a sports team at Boys Town, maybe a little more than what is required at other schools. That's because our coaches face some unique challenges.
First, our coaches have to be flexible because they never know for certain who will be on their teams from season to season. New kids arrive at Boys Town almost every week, while others who have been in our care for some time may leave because they are ready to return to their family or move to another permanent placement. Team line-ups sometimes can change quickly and suddenly.
Second, many of our boys and girls have never played organized sports. Boys Town is their first opportunity to experience that thrill. That means our coaches often have to help their student-athletes learn everything from the rules of the game to how to put on their equipment.
Finally, besides being responsible for training and preparing their players, our coaches are an extension of the therapeutic care we provide through our residential services. Boys Town coaches are teachers, mentors, role models, motivators and partners in bringing healing and hope to our kids.
Sports have been an important part of Boys Town since its founding more than 100 years ago because they help build character in young people. Our youth learn how to work toward a goal as part of a team and how to bounce back from adversity. Most importantly, they learn how to win with grace, lose with dignity and put in the hard work that leads to success.
Boys Town has even developed a program called Competing With Character® (CWC). The Competing With Character curriculum provides an innovative game plan for enhancing youth sports programs by teaching skills to players, coaches and parents that promote good sportsmanship, positive competition and character development. Besides being part of Boys Town athletics, CWC has been adopted by other schools and sports organizations across the country. (To order a copy of our Competing With Character book, visit boystownpress.org.)
Here are just a few of Boys Town's tips for helping children compete with character:
- Spell out all expectations by creating a list of rules and consequences for activities.
- Set specific goals for children to help them stay focused.
- Be a good role model by helping them practice and supporting their team in positive ways.
- Build confidence by teaching life skills like being respectful and taking responsibility.
- Praise and compliment positive behaviors and effort.
We are very fortunate at Boys Town to have great coaches, as well as a group – the Boys Town Boosters – that passionately supports our athletic program. Every spring, the Boosters host a big banquet that features a guest speaker from the sports world and recognizes the accomplishments of our Boys Town student-athletes. Funds raised from this event help pay for sports equipment and uniforms for our kids, and ensure that any Boys Town youth who wants to participate in sports is able to do so. (This year's banquet is April 30 in Omaha, and the guest speaker is NBA standout Bruce Bowen.)
If your children are involved in sports (or any kind of team activity), we hope they're having the same kind of positive experiences our Boys Town kids enjoy. We also hope you are having fun watching your kids compete and are reinforcing the valuable life lessons they're learning.