‘Four years is not enough’
“Four years is not enough.”That’s not a comment in regards to the political landscape but an anonymous response from one of our football seniors in his exit survey.
Several of the questions were open ended: What did you enjoy most? What should be changed? As I heard the responses, “four years is not enough” stood out most. I cannot think of a greater complement to our athletic program.
We live in an era when coaches and administrators are criticized almost every step of the way by those on the outside. Many parents believe their child is destined to appear on national television announcing their college of choice while obtaining a full-ride scholarship. But they have a far better chance of being offered an academic scholarship. That’s why this response from a student-athlete was important. I hope it encourages coaches to stay the course when facing criticism and adversity.
As coaches and athletic administrators, we need to leave our student-athletes wanting more by providing them with outstanding experiences and memories, both on and off the field. That doesn’t just happen. It’s the amount of time, work and planning behind the scenes that allows student-athletes to have these types of experiences. That includes bus drivers, field workers, coaches, booster parents, administrators, teachers and coaches.
Our senior football players won a state title during their junior year, lost in the state finals during their sophomore year, and lost in the sectional semifinals in their final season. But this young man will benefit most from the camaraderie. I’m familiar with many of our senior football players, but I would rather not know which one wrote that comment. I’m hopeful they all feel the same about their time here, regardless of whether they chose to put it down on paper.
We have 32 varsity teams at our school. This is just one story from one senior athlete, but I’ve heard positive stories from other programs, including our girls tennis program. Our outgoing seniors are four-time Passaic County champions. Their coach told me that at their end-of-the-season function, those girls spoke only about the camaraderie and memories of spending time with their teammates. They never mentioned their success and dominance as county champions.
These two stories came about over the past week, a good reminder of why we chose this profession. While this job becomes more difficult, coaches and athletic directors need to understand and celebrate the reasons we became involved in education-based athletics. It’s likely that we too felt that four years is not enough.
When I hear stories like the one from our tennis seniors, it makes me confident that the athletic program at Wayne Hills High School — not to mention coaches and athletic directors across the country — are doing something right. And I don’t believe that we hear it enough. There are a lot of outside influences and responsibilities, but most student-athletes understand and appreciate what we do. Some of these student-athletes realize it immediately, while some will not grasp it until they gather for their 10- or 20-year reunions. But at some point, they too will come to recognize that four years is just not long enough.
Rich Porfido has coached five sports and has spent 14 years as an athletic director at two schools. He currently is the director of athletics at Wayne Hills High School in New Jersey.