As students head back to class today throughout the county, Montgomery County Public Schools is welcoming 161,000 students, and a roughly 23,000 of those students are student-athletes participating in one of the 44 different teams playing one of 20 different sports offered in high school, as well as four sports, offer in middle school.
For the first time in many years, there is a new head of MCPS Athletics, as long-time Director of Athletics William “Duke” Beattie retired after nearly 40 years with MCPS on June 30. His replacement as systemwide director of athletics is Jeff Sullivan, who was promoted from the post of Athletics Specialist. Sullivan is the former Athletics Director at Clarksburg High School.
Up taking over the director’s post, Sullivan convened a task force of folks from the MCPS athletics department to explore the reasons why interscholastic sports exist. With the plethora of independent sports programs in many sports, from club soccer to AAU basketball, or travel baseball leagues, Sullivan wanted to get the core values of why interscholastic sports were so important.
“We wanted to take this opportunity focus on what athletics bring to student athletes and our communities,” said Sullivan. “Over the summer we had a work group come up with a vision, a mission, a purpose, and the core values for MCPS Athletics.”
The result is a new rededication to MCPS Athletics. “This year at MCPS Athletics we wanted to really focus in on our core values and our why; Why do we participate in athletics? Why do coaches coach?” said Sullivan. “I think by focusing on our why and on our core purpose of why we exist we can then build outward and look at where we are going and how we do it.”
The work group came up with a number of core values, and MCPS Athletics are using the acronym RAISE to remind athletic directors, coaches, students, and parents of the core reasons interscholastic sports are important.
RAISE stands for; Respect and Sportsmanship, Academic Excellence, Integrity and Honesty, Spirited Safe Competition, and Equity and Access.
“We are trying to highlight the things that we do in athletics that RAISE our core values, so we have been using the social media hashtag #WeRAISE and highlighting what we do,” said Sullivan.
Schools including Northwest High School have been using the hashtag on social media to point events and instances when athletics have provided more than competition. “We have seen things from teams giving back to their community,” said Sullivan. “We have seen academic celebrations by some teams posting academic goals. We have seen displays of sportsmanship in our first scrimmages. We have seen community reach at events that schools have hosted. We are hoping that as the year goes, we will continue to promote our core values and what athletics bring beyond the traditional classroom setting.”
“These are values that we’ve always tried to emulate. As we move forward with high school sports, it is a unique opportunity to reconnect and champion the things that we do. This is a way of quantifying what we do. This is the reasons we have athletic events in schools. This is what sports bring to kids in Montgomery County,” said Sullivan.
He said the message of core values has been well received by coaches and athletic directors. “We are looking for other ways of promoting our message. Social media is a very quick and easy way to get our message out.” Sullivan said that MCPS staff is looking at having banners made up and doing other events and activities recognize staff. “We are looking to talk to our staff and find out how they are recognizing people at their local schools who are exemplifying these values.”
File photos by Germantown Pulse.