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Keith Sinor and Nathan Mellor hope to ELEVATE the character of student-athletes

“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.”
by Jenni Carlson Published: August 17, 2014

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.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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