Why All the Changes to the Athletic Program?
(Alliance League, MHSAA, Homeschoolers)
PART 1: Why leave the Alliance League?
I have been asked by several people, including Mrs. Wall, to discuss in some detail what the recent changes in the ACS athletic program will mean for students, parents, and the greater ACS community. So, I take PC in hand to explain what the Administration and Athletic Committee are trying to accomplish with these moves.
To begin, let’s just consider the numbers of students that we are currently educating in the HS at ACS. They are down, and not just because of athletes that have left! The Athletic Committee had to face the facts that, at least in the case of girls’ sports, ACS didn’t have the numbers to fill spots on teams we have traditionally fielded. For instance, last year we had only 7 girls sign up for MS soccer, and 8 for HS soccer. The numbers have picked up somewhat in 5th and 6th grades, but we are still VERY short for girls’ soccer.
This was a problem in more ways than one. Of course, we didn’t have the numbers for a team, so athletes that wanted to play a sport couldn’t. However, dropping a team meant that we went on “probation” with the Alliance League. This meant that the Alliance League signatories could “vote us off the island” any time they chose. Now they said that they had no intention of doing that, but it still meant that we weren’t pulling our share of the load…..especially in the area of scheduling. As an AD I can tell you that this is a huge issue. Furthermore, some teams like Tri-Unity, refused to play us because they recognized that we were no match for them, and pulverizing us was not good for them, or us. Some teams cheerfully pounded us, arguing that it was up to us to improve and to stop them if we could. That has been a bit tough on morale as you can imagine, especially at the MS level.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Alliance League is bad, or even wrong; it’s just not the philosophy that I hold for athletics. I believe that respect for your sparring partner is one the most important things we need to teach in Christian athletics. These folks aren’t the enemy, they are our Christian brothers and sisters, who are our opponents for the evening’s entertainment. Our goal should never be to humiliate them. This difference in philosophy led us to consider starting another league, with smaller schools, and schools who shared our values and philosophy.
When I reached out to some of these schools, it turned out that Aaron Cochrill of West Michigan Lutheran School had already begun to reach out to the same schools for the exact same reason. When Aaron and I spoke for the first time, I felt that I was talking with a Christian brother who cared about my kids as much as he cared about his. I gladly gave him the reins and stepped into the harness with him to pull this thing together. That led to the formation of the Great Lakes 6, the conference we are in now. The GL6 actually has within its by-laws language that stresses the importance of respecting opponents and provides specific strategies for coaches to implement to ensure good competition. GL6 coaches know that running up the score, raunchy unethical behavior, and poor treatment of opponents in general, could result in their dismissal after due process.
Now, has that eliminated all of this type of behavior? Well, no, not yet. However, it did result in our boys’ soccer teams competing with confidence in every game. We only suffered one mercy by a league team this year, as compared to at least half a dozen last year. The coach dealing out this mercy felt horrible about it, but we were the ones who kicked in the goal causing the mercy! Still, it bothered him that we had been the victim of a mercy. There was still some inappropriate language from time to time from misguided athletes, but the ADs of the GL6 immediately dealt with that, and the incidents seemed to become less frequent. That is what we are about in the GL6!
In MS Boys’ Basketball this season, we got our first “W” in almost 2 years at that level. Interestingly, we put a running clock on West Michigan Lutheran with 2 minutes left in the game. In the Alliance League, this would have just been, oh well, business as usual! In the GL6 I reached out to the AD of that school to make sure sportsmanship had not gone by the board and that we had done everything we could to avoid a running clock. (Running clocks just shorten play time for our athletes which helps no one.) The AD responded with a couple of reasonable suggestions, but admitted that there was very little our coach could have done (short of telling our boys not to play) and he was OK with the efforts that Coach Lockwood had made to keep the game as close as he did. That is all I ask! It’s not hard to respect your opponent. All anyone really wants is to see the other team respecting them, no matter what the scoreboard says! Nice job, Coach!
So, in finishing Part I, I believe that leaving the Alliance League was the correct move. It moved us into a league where we are more competitive. It moved us into a group of schools who joined because they claimed to have the same philosophy as us in regards to athletics. (i.e. They wanted all kids to have a chance to play and they wanted to teach their students to respect opponents and be respected by them.) In addition, there is no probation in the GL6, and there are even provisions for short-handed teams to play an equal number of opponents. That is something the Alliance League never accepted. The “pros” for this moved literally outweighed the “cons” two to one!
Tim Quinlan, Athletic Director
AN OPEN LETTER FROM AN ALUMNI FAMILY:
When we were faced with the decision of where to send our oldest to kindergarten, we wanted to be very intentional about our choice. Though we had both graduated from Algoma Christian School, we felt the desire to explore other options and see where God and God alone was leading us to send her.
We already felt that based on her personality, homeschooling would not be a good choice for us at that time. So we began to research the various educational options in our area. Since moving was not out of the question, we looked into several area public schools as well as charter schools, various Christian schools, and even a local classical academy. Though each option offered various "good" qualities, we kept coming back to one thing: filters. How much will we be able to filter out there?
Then we would come back to the option of Christian education. Though we knew the teachers would not be perfect and the children would be no different, we also knew that the filters that would be required at other institutions would not be necessary at Algoma. We could trust that Biblical truth and grace would be behind everything that was taught here. From teaching the truth of Creation in the classroom to encouraging Biblical principles for conflict resolution, each aspect would be building our child's foundation of faith.
No matter how many programs were offered at other schools, that foundation could not be surpassed. No matter how much we could save financially at other schools, nothing was more valuable than that foundation in our child's heart.
Our children will grow up in the world. This we know. No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to shield them from the effects of living in this fallen world. But, we do have the extraordinary opportunity to equip them with a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Word. Christian Education stands with us, not against us, in this process, and for that we will be eternally grateful.
Christian schools are comprised of believers from many different denominational backgrounds and personal histories. Each person, therefore, brings a unique history and perspective to the school. Most often this is enriching for all as we grow and learn together and become more Christ-like through our association. On the other hand, it is to be expected that these differing views sometimes lead to conflict and hurt. It is hard enough to resolve these problems when they arise among adults, but it is doubly hard to address them among students.
In school, and hopefully at home, students are taught to be generous, kind, considerate, honest, and fair with one another. As Christians, we are commanded to love one another, and for the most part, parents and teachers are successful in fostering this kind of behavior in their children. However, there is one thing that neither parents nor teachers can do, and that is to get students to like each other. This sometimes leads to heartache when children are excluded from events either at home or at school. While there is no definitive answer to this problem, there are a few things we can do that may make these situations less painful.
In school, teachers can encourage children to play with each other and to play so that all get an equal turn. They can create group projects that require students to work together as a team where each individual is necessary for the group’s success. They can pre-select teams for PE and recess so that no student is left out.
At home, parents can encourage their children to invite classmates over to play--not just their usual friends but also the new students who perhaps don’t have a good buddy yet. When planning a birthday party or special event, they can insist that their child be as inclusive as possible. For example, it is always better to invite an identifiable group, such as all the girls, or all the boys, or all the team members, etc. If that is too many, then the invited group should be small enough that several children are left out rather than only one.
When conflicts do arise between students, be sure to pray about it. Your children know how to pray, and they know that our God answers prayer. Make a plan with them to pray every single day for two weeks. Brainstorm creative solutions to the problem. Ask them to consider how they could show loving-kindness toward the one who is currently bothering them. Consider ways that they could be pro-active in eliminating their ‘enemies’ by making them their friends.
If the conflict or the exclusion appears to be a serious problem or one that just won’t go away, then alert your child’s teacher. Teachers are there to help you to help your child live for the Lord. The teacher can begin to pray with you about the problem. They can focus their teaching on the problem, and they may be able to make some changes in seating or in their project groups that will help solve the problem. Working in partnership as parents and teachers is one of the most powerful ways that we can influence our children and improve their experience at school and home.
At the high school level, problems sometime arise not just among our own students but between our students and those who attend other schools. Sometimes cliques can form in youth groups so that public and Christian school kids don’t mix together. Encourage your teens to break the mold and demolish the cliques. It is natural for kids to hang around with their friends, and these friends will typically be people that attend their school. On the other hand, don’t allow the natural friendships to grow into divisions where people feel unwelcome. Encourage your kids to be the ones that reach out and include someone from outside their natural group.
My prayer is that our students would be marked by love for one another. When the world or the church sees one of our children, I hope they are struck by their poise, confidence in the Lord, and willingness to love and accept everyone. Let’s pray to that end; let’s challenge our children to do the same, and let’s live that way ourselves. If we do, we will ensure that school is a warm, welcoming, and supportive place for every student, and that will truly bless the Lord!-- BH