By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Bedford Schools’ Director of Athletics Keith Mangan provided the School Committee with an overview of athletic programming on Tuesday night, highlighting aspects of the middle and high school programs that he supervises. Saying that he came to the job with both personal and professional goals, Mangan said that one of his primary areas of emphasis is strengthening the connection between athletics and academics. The athletic program’s philosophy, he added, is based on the development of good character, high standards and ethics, and focuses on six core values: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.
“We pride ourselves on fostering integrity, respect and responsibility—toward themselves, towards their teammates, towards their coaches, towards the referees, and towards the teams that they compete against,” Mangan said. “[This is] not just [for] our student-athletes; we want to make sure that the coaches and the adults that are involved continue to [display respectful behavior,] and model those values as well.”
Mangan added that student athletes are expected to value cultural diversity; practice the democratic principles of tolerance, activism, responsibility for and service to community; and think independently, but work cooperatively to reach goals and resolve problems.
The number of students who participate in sports at the high school illustrates how important athletics are. Depending on the year, between 67% and 70% of all students play at least one sport; the majority play a second sport during the year, and a smaller number of students play sports in all three seasons. For example, 70% of all students (546 students) played sports during the 2010-11 academic year; 209 of those 546 played one sport, 242 played two sports and 95 played sports all three seasons. More girls (284) played that year than boys (262).
“What makes me really proud,” Mangan said, “is the number of students in the two-sport/three-sport range, with so many things that people are involved in these days outside of athletics—just within academics or jobs or drama or band or different things within the town.”
Looking ahead to the coming season, Mangan said, “The way it looks right now, based on sign-up numbers and who’s already registered for the spring season, there will be no cuts,” indicating that what often occurs in Bedford—but in few other nearby towns—will happen again this spring: every student will get a place on the team of his/her choice.
Mangan went on to cite a list of awards that student-athletes received in 2011-12 as examples of achievement in sports. Either as individuals or as teams, Bedford athletes were successful competitors in multiple sports, including a state championship for girls tennis; two league titles and two “Coach of the Year” honors for hockey and girls basketball; one individual Metro League rifle champion; eight Lowell Sun All-Stars; and sixty-two Dual County League All-Stars.
This year, so far, there have been two League championships in boys soccer and girls basketball; one EMASS All-Star, two All Scholastics winners; four Lowell Sun All-Stars; and eighteen Dual County All-Stars. Mangan also reported that Bedford did well in a recent indoor Track and Field meet, with winners and runners-up in individual sprint and middle-distance races, girls shot put, and team relay.
As for what’s new in the school sports, Mangan said that the synthetic turf field at Sabourin Field will be very beneficial for his programs. It’s going to be great,” he said. “We’re taking a piece of under-utilized real estate and using it to capacity.”
Coach evaluation processes, to mirror teacher evaluations, are an area that is still evolving. “I evaluate everyone,” Mangan said. “Coaching positions are year-to-year. If they aren’t doing what we want, they don’t stay.”
Preparation for coaches as well as professional development is required and not negotiable. Mangan said, “We don’t hire anyone back the second year who doesn’t get their [required] certification.”
Other initiatives he hopes to offer include what he called a “Family ID”, which would allow parents to create a website account that stores basic information so that sports registration forms can be more easily filled out. For a preview of this program see: https://www.familyid.com/registrations/bd8105758213f09910836b0f18ec866a/preview
Additionally, a new “Bucs in College” display was created last fall to highlight BHS alumni who are participating in sports at the post-secondary level. Mangan noted that the numbers of students who go on to play Division 1 sports in college is small –only 2% of graduates receive athletic scholarships—and that parent and student expectations can be overly optimistic, leading to disappointment.
Mangan reported that Bedford Community Television has offered to provide DVDs of any of games they have recorded. The studio will also work with parents and students to produce highlight DVDs on an as-requested basis. For more details, contact Madeleine Altmann or Greg Dolan of Bedford TV at 781-275-5004.
Mangan made note of ongoing support from the Bedford Athletic Association (BAA), saying it has been invaluable. Recent BAA donations include funds for uniforms, team awards, record boards to post best performances in a given sport, college scholarships, a new PA system for Sabourin Field, tents for outside events, a CoreCourseGPA.com program for students to use to stay on track for NCAA eligibility, and championship banners for the gym.
Another donation of note—wrestling mats—came from The Edge sports facility on Hartwell Road. Mangan noted that upper grade students frequently come to Bedford having had wrestling experience at previous schools. To try to grow a program, the Recreation department has added wrestling courses, using the donated mats, at the middle school.
Initiatives that student-athletes have been involved in include service projects such as clinics and coaching for younger players, clothing drives for charity, and field clean-ups. Mangan added that students raised enough money in a recent used-equipment sale to purchase new team uniforms.
Academic progress is tracked for all student-athletes, but particularly for those who are in danger of dropping below the eligibility line due to low grades. Mangan said he believes the bar is set too low and is considering raising eligibility standards for Bedford student athletes above the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) standards now used.
When asked about sports-related concussions, Mangan says that he keeps abreast of concussions and impact injuries and is considering the use of pre-testing software with which student athletes would create a baseline norm to be used comparatively during injury recovery to gauge readiness for returning to play. He said that it is true that more concussions are being reported than before and that it is hard to know why that would be.
“The education piece is the hardest part,” Mangan said. “Some [veteran] coaches and even some physicians aren’t even on target with this yet. . . . [But] people are definitely a little bit more aware. We’ve had some [concussions] in basketball, some in track, some in skiing. It’s kind of like an equal-opportunity thing. We have some student-athletes who are still out of participation after more than a year. It’s very frustrating for them but what can you do? You can’t mess with your head.”