At all middle and high schools, coaches push their teams to achieve success both on and off the field. However, it is important for schools to offer a place on a team for every student who desires to compete in a sport while also being able to support the elite athlete who may aspire to play at the college level. Being able to introduce students to athletics in an inclusive environment featuring a no-cut policy can be beneficial for the school as well as the students.
Offering at least one no-cut program each season at the upper and high school levels is important. Though this policy may require an added investment in facilities, coaching staff, and equipment, it pays huge dividends for students, teams, and school spirit. Students receive the character-building, teammate bonds, and physical well-being that come with meaningful team sports participation. Coaches experience more student-athletes trying out for their sport and thereby the opportunity to grow their program. School spirit receives a boost when more students are involved in athletics because they are more likely to cheer on their classmates in other sports.
"Currently, 80 percent of our students compete in at least one sport. We attribute ESJ’s inclusive environment from Middle School through Upper School as the major factor behind this extraordinary level of voluntary participation," said Andy Kidd '99, Episcopal School of Jacksonville's Director of Athletics.
Important Keys to a No-Cut Program
- Recognize the importance of establishing a winning culture early on within the athletic programs. Organize no-cut teams on the basis of ability versus age. This gives an exceptional student-athletes, no matter their age, the opportunity to compete on a top-tier team when the coach deems him or her sufficiently talented and prepared to compete there. This strategy not only helps establish an early winning culture but also means younger athletes go to high school already having experienced meaningful competition.
- A commitment to placing the appropriate number of athletes on each team ensures each athlete has the opportunity for targeted coaching instruction as well as quality playing time in contests. This may mean four teams with ten players instead of two with twenty.
- Strive to recruit coaches who are both knowledgeable and successful in their sport. If possible, have those coaches or program directors involved in other ways on campus to immerse them in the community and help them better understand the school culture, which better equips them to work with student-athletes.
- Ensure coaches benefit from regular exposure to new instructional techniques and training methods by attending conferences and clinics when possible. Coaches can incorporate the new techniques and methods they have learned into their practice sessions and contest strategy.
"Looking back, when Episcopal School of Jacksonville implemented our inclusive athletic environment and no-cut policy, we had no idea of how much positive impact it would have on our community,' said Kidd. "Looking forward, we foresee continued growth and increased athletic excellence far into the future."