By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor
Staff, space and budgetary constraints put limitations on the best of organizations, and the MHSAA feels the squeeze like any other association.
Technology, fortunately, provides an infinite number of belt loops to loosen as programs expand. In order to achieve mass appeal, an association’s message at times needs to shift from face-to-face to desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.
Especially when the target audience comprises those in their late teens, for whom the objects above are never out of arm’s reach.
Thus is the impetus the MHSAA Online Captains Course, set to launch later this school year.
“Our in-person Captains Clinics programs are still a great way to deliver leadership lessons and to get students from rival schools to interact with each other in a fun and worthwhile way,” said MHSAA Director of Brand Management Andy Frushour. “But we can only do so many in-person clinics per year. With the online version, we can deliver the same message, albeit through a different format. And we can do it 24 hours a day, at the user’s convenience, using a medium that kids use like the rest of us use oxygen, and potentially delivering our captains message to exponentially more students than the in-person version; even to students outside of Michigan.”
The ambitious plan is expected to come to fruition this fall, with plenty of support from the Michigan State University Institute for the Study of Youth Sports (ISYS), and, of course, the MHSAA Student Advisory Council.
The faces of the Captains course, quite literally, will be SAC members Connor Thomas of Marlette, and Caycee Turczyn of Lapeer.
“The idea for the Online Captains Course came to be when we were evaluating the Captains 101 books,” said Thomas, referring to a printed guide published by members of the first three SAC classes. “When it was decided there would be an online course, our committee decided to do a revision of the book to go along with our online sessions. The course will be open to all who want to gain knowledge on how to be a better leader. The first session is a series of videos, personal interviews and leadership activities.”
Turczyn and Thomas serving as hosts fit the peer-to-peer model that is so effective in student leadership campaigns.
“The main goal is to reach out to team captains or student-athletes,” Turczyn said. “With the two of us as speakers leading other students through the course, it will make it seem less like homework and more like a friend trying to encourage another friend to become they best they can be.”
This first version will be an introductory course, with plans for two more advanced leadership courses that will be facilitated online but with activities and discussions to take place offline in local communities. The goal for this “hands-on” portion of the training is for leaders to conduct interviews with coaches and administrators, write short answers and interact with teammates for a more transformational learning experience.
Working closely with Frushour, the ISYS team of Scott Pierce and Scott Westfall has spent the past year designing the program curriculum and they, too, are anticipating a highly-interactive and well-received product.
“It’s a three-tiered program that will provide high school student-athletes information that leaders ‘need to know.’” Westfall said. “Topics that will be covered include understanding motivation, team cohesion, positive peer modeling and communication. Additionally, the programs will provide captains with structured activities and experiences to promote self-reflection and opportunities to grow as young leaders.”
The first course is made up of 10, 10-minute segments, so it should take about two hours to complete. The short “bite-sized” segments make it easier for students to digest all of the information being given to them.
Frushour and the MHSAA are grateful to have supportive, expert leaders in the field as neighbors.
“All of the lessons are based on research conducted by MSU’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports,” Frushour said. “Dr. Dan Gould and his doctoral students are rock stars in the field of youth and leadership development, and we are lucky to have them as partners on this project “
For Pierce and the ISYS team, it’s a natural fit.
“The ISYS strives to provide these MHSAA initiatives with the most relevant and applicable scientific knowledge to put the organization in the best position to develop strong student-athlete leaders,” Pierce said.
PHOTOS: (Top) Marlette's Connor Thomas and Lapeer's Caycee Turczyn will serve as the Student Advisory Council hosts for an online Captains Clinic coming soon. (Middle) Michigan State University's Scott Pierce, Thomas, Turczyn and the MHSAA's Andy Frushour work on a segment shot at DeWitt High School.