Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 2 – 2020-21
Permission to Fail
Education-based athletics and activities give students the support they need to succeed and fail
Rory Oster, CAA
Athletic Director, Camas SD
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture, Engaging Families and Communities, Closing the Gap
It’s the final period of the school day.
No, I am not referring to that 6th period math class, or the period of wood shop that has to do more cleaning than the previous shop classes because they are the last ones to use the facility for the day.
I am talking about the students who are going to stay another two or more hours at school while others load into their school buses or drive home in their cars. The students who are choosing to take full advantage of the schools’ resources that will provide them with the entire educational experience. The students who are choosing to participate to learn what the traditional classroom can not teach them, the ones who are learning from education-based athletics and activities.
I look at education-based athletics and activities as the best value school districts have to offer, or in other words, “the best bang for your buck.” Yes, there are coaches’ contracts, transportation costs, facility maintenance, supplies and uniforms to be purchased among other costs that must be placed into the budget. But when you look at the proof from several studies that show secondary students involved in education-based co-curricular activities, have higher percentages of days of school attended, higher graduation rates, higher assessment scores and lower dropout rates than students who do not take advantage of these programs the 2% of the school districts overall budget seems like a complete bargain. But it is the additional educational growth and life lessons these programs offer that will assist the students in making choices that will contribute to their life long success. This is what makes education-based athletics and activities the deal of a lifetime.
You cannot raise your children as your parents raised you, because your parents raised you for a world that no longer exists.
There are so many lessons and values students will learn and gain by participating in these programs. After 15 years of serving as a leader of education-based athletics and activities in both a coaching and administration role, here are some examples of values I have seen students who participate in these programs learn and use to become successful students, employees, parents, spouses, friends and positive members of society.
  • Accountability
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Fitness
  • Social Relationships
  • Discipline
  • Academic Responsibility
  • Selflessness
  • Community Representation
  • Humility and Pride
  • Teachable Spirit
  • Confidence
  • Time Management
  • Teamwork
  • Adversity
While all of these values support the positive education and growth our youth need, in today’s world I do not think any of them are more important than the value of adversity. I recently came across a quote from an unknown source that has resonated very deeply with me as a school leader and a father:
“You cannot raise your children as your parents raised you, because your parents raised you for a world that no longer exists.”
Many of us grew up before youth athletics was a multi-billion-dollar industry. Way before every parent seemed to be an expert on everything their children chose to be involved in, or before there were parents hovering over their children, ready to swoop in and save them from any sort of disappointment or hurt feelings. Most of us are able to think back when we were high school students and remember a decision or two we made, that if we were being honest with ourselves turned out to be poor decisions. I like to think that many of us learned from those poor decisions and became better people because of it. We learned from our failures. We were able to use failure as a teacher, and not our undertaker. But as the quote above mentions, that was in a world that no longer exists.
Today’s youth are growing up in a world that plays with much higher stakes than it did back when we were their age. In a world where the wrong tweet or posting of the wrong picture can negatively affect a 15-year-old boy or girl for the rest of their lives. In a world where facing adversity can be hard to come by because parents are protecting their children from ever having to experience it, as they realize how large the stakes are for the decisions they make.
But adversity and failure are some of the very greatest teaching tools we can ever give our young people. They must have the opportunity to make a wrong decision, see the negative effects of that decision and learn from it. Ellen DeGeneres once said, “It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” Adolescents need that failure to reach their potential, to dig deep, work harder and strive to reach their goals.
But with stakes so high we cannot have them making failing decisions in the classroom, driving their vehicles, with drugs and alcohol or with social media. So, in today’s world one of the very most important values education-based athletics and activities teaches and provides is an arena for our students to fail in and face adversity. Yes, you hear me right: We, as coaches and program leaders, spend hours and hours of hard work to provide an opportunity for the kids we serve to fail. Why? Because we understand that failures, mistakes and losses provide an individual with a valuable source of feedback. They let them know what they did wrong and what not to do next time. Failures highlight their weaknesses and they cannot become better or more skilled without knowing their shortcomings. It allows them to experience and understand that things will not always turn out how they want them to, and what matters is how they learn to face that adversity. How fast can they get back up after getting knocked down and keep moving forward. In a world that plays with these high stakes consequences there is truly no better setting for today’s boys and girls to learn that value than education-based athletic and activity programs.
As author Napoleon Hill said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” So, support those students to go out for that soccer team even though they may get cut, or take that lead role in the school play and watch them forget their lines on opening night, or to attempt that game winning field goal and miss. They will experience heartache. They will think about what they could have done differently to produce a different outcome, and they may cry themselves to sleep that night. The sun will rise in the morning for them, there will be no life changing negative effects and they will have the chance to use that failure to better themselves and to become more successful throughout their lives.
Education-based athletics and activities provide opportunities for students to learn so many life changing values, and have positively impacted millions and millions of people throughout history. But in today’s world, no value is more important than giving boys and girls permission to fail.
Find us on
Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 2 – 2020-21