Many Factors at Play

Four reasons why Catlin Gabel athletes enjoy winning seasons all year round

By Ken DuBois

Athletic pursuits at Catlin Gabel are encouraged as part of the whole child approach to education, and students embrace the opportunity: Over 80% of Middle School students and close to 70% of Upper School students participate on Catlin Gabel teams. They like to compete, and they play to win.

Many factors contributed to the students’ success in sports, says Athletic Director Sandy Luu, but instilling the school’s values was a major factor. She cites four main reasons for the athletic program’s success:

Teaching resiliency and promoting self-esteem
Athletes are coached to be resilient in the face of defeat, and to rechallenge themselves for the work ahead. They are also coached to believe in their abilities, and to bring that confidence into every game. “We’re teaching kids that you shouldn’t be afraid to win,” Sandy says. “You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for the win and get after it.”

Developing the “whole child”
The time commitment required to pursue team sports has to be balanced with other obligations, so the coaching staff works with athletes to create the balance they need to succeed in all areas. Coaches talk with a student’s advisors to better understand what’s going well for that student, and where they may need extra support.

Building relationships
A Catlin Gabel education is based on strong relationships, and the athletic program is no exception. “It’s not just about moving people through,” Sandy says. “It’s about what goes on along the journey, and making sure that everybody’s involved.” That relationship-building can start years before a student joins a team. Middle School students who show an interest, for example, are invited to attend Upper School warm-ups and games.

Teaching character first
The positive attitude of Catlin Gabel athletes, even when facing a loss, is a key reason for their overall success, says Sandy. She credits the coaching staff for teaching that point consistently across all sports. “Going for a win at all costs isn’t worth it,” she says. “Teach character first, no matter what.”

Wins are great, says Sandy, but the main objective of her program is preparing students for life beyond Catlin Gabel by teaching them teamwork, cooperation, and how to handle both victory and defeat. “Our focus is to help the kids go through it while we’re there to pick them up,” she says. “We help them walk through these lessons now so that they can become better people later.”