Keith Sinor and Nathan Mellor will be scoring no touchdowns this fall, no baskets this winter and no goals next spring.
But we should be cheering like crazy for what they are trying to do.
Sinor is the athletic director for Oklahoma City Public Schools, and Mellor is a leadership guru based in Oklahoma City. They developed ELEVATE, a character-building program for every team in every high school in the district. The hope is that the program puts the focus back on what is most important in athletics and helps transform thousands of athletes in the process.
It could be a game changer not just for OKCPS but for OKC.
“If it is done and if character is our focus,” Sinor said, “the impact is going to be felt for a long period of time.”
The program had its genesis as a gradual gnawing in Sinor’s gut. He coached for years, then moved into school administration, and all the while, he saw wins and losses quickly becoming the only measures of success.
Sinor understood that mentality in college and pro sports, but high school sports?
“Somewhere along the way,” he said, “we had lost what I think athletics is all about, which is building better people.”
When Sinor took over as the athletic director in Oklahoma’s largest school district three years ago, he began an ambitious process of making over the sports programs. There were facilities to be fixed and coaches to be retained, but even as Sinor set his plans in motion, he was mindful that athletics needed to be more about character development than win-loss records.
He preached to anyone who would listen.
Eventually, someone shared Sinor’s vision with Mellor. His company, Strata Leadership, helps all sorts of organizations with character building and leadership development. Mellor contacted Sinor, and they devised a 10-week program.
Every Monday starts with the coach discussing a character trait that will be the focus for that week, such as courage, honesty and responsibility. Then, everyone is encouraged to notice, celebrate and encourage those characteristics.
A football coach sees a player staying with a block.
“That’s what I’m talking about with determination!”
Who knows what that praise could mean to an impressionable youngster?
“They have been told by someone who cares about them that ‘You are a person of character, and I’ve seen that in the way you stay with your block because that’s determination,’” Mellor said.
What’s more, the player who best displayed the characteristic of the week receives a shiny gold medal. The C3 Award recognizes character, competence and consistency.
Pretty cool, huh?
ELEVATE could have a significant impact on the young people of Oklahoma City. Thousands play sports in the district every year, and remember, a vast majority of them come from less-than-stellar backgrounds. Single-parent and no-parent homes. Low-income families. High-crime neighborhoods. Finding time to focus on self-control and alertness can be difficult when you’re just trying to make it from one day to the next.
These lessons will make better teammates now and more productive adults in the future.
Everyone in Oklahoma City should want that. After all, these are our future neighbors and co-workers, our future moms and dads. I don’t know about you, but I want all of them to be good, productive citizens. And what Sinor and Mellor are doing could put more of these young people on that path.
That’s why we should be their biggest fans.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.