New Leadership Program Introduced to Sports Captains
Our sports teams have always been a great source of pride for Riverdale. From Homecoming to swim team bake sales, students are always lining up to support the Falcons in one form or another. In every case, a certain group of people is seen at the forefront of these initiatives-- the captains of Riverdale’s various teams. From the moment that a student attends the first day of preseason, he or she is probably already beginning to imagine the glory that they will achieve by reaching the coveted rank of team captain by senior year.
However, as Riverdale’s athletics director John Pizzi recently discovered, the position of captain can be more difficult than it appears. Captains can sometimes be unsure of how to act in situations relating to their role in being the leaders of their teams. That is why, after several months of discussion with head of upper school Kelley Nicholson-Flynn, Mr. Pizzi has decided to make Riverdale the most recent of over thirty schools to join the Hallways Program, an initiative started by the Freedom Institute.
The Freedom Institute is a recovery center licensed by the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Service to aid families being torn apart by drug-related problems or domestic abuse. The Institute started Hallways as a means of branching out into the world of independent schools and, according to its website, “instill students with tools to navigate social, emotional, and academic challenges of adolescence with confidence.” Hallways carefully studies each school it works with in order to create a plan of action that is tailored to each school’s particular culture and values.
At Riverdale, facilitators from Hallways met with focus groups of team captains and coaches to talk about the unique social culture that our school has developed. Two private video conferences between coaches and Hallways facilitators aided coaches in teaching captains how to take an active role in the management and morale of their teams, or as Mr. Pizzi phrased it, “learning how to be an upstander rather than a bystander, both inside and outside their team.” The program culminated in a four hour seminar on September 30th, during which Hallways facilitators visited Riverdale and summarized the lessons of the program, while also stressing the importance of taking initiative to be an active and helpful member of the Riverdale community. In addition, Mr. Pizzi, in collaboration with Hallways, wrote a handbook informing captains of how to react to various scenarios that may come up as part of their regular responsibilities.
Mr. Pizzi emphasized the idea that the lessons learned in the Hallways program will be relevant and useful even off the field, saying that students in the program were taught how to act calmly and rationally in stressful situations and how to properly react to classmates participating in “questionable social behavior.” He also believes that since captains can spend as much as sixteen hours a week with their coaches, they had become desensitized to their messages of responsibility, and that the fresh faces of Hallways representatives would spark a new wave of motivation to be attentive and caring teammates.
As far as Hallways’ future at Riverdale goes, Mr. Pizzi reports that Dr. Nicholson-Flynn, in conjunction with the high school deans, will spend the coming months determining ways to make the Hallways program useful to other students in positions of leadership, such as the leaders of activity clubs. Mr. Pizzi explained that Hallways can be useful to students of all passions at Riverdale as, at its core, it is really a simple “opportunity to understand” what it means to be a considerate and diligent member of our community.