The Role of Athletics in a Classical Education

  • Athletics
  • The Teenage Years
The Role of Athletics in a Classical Education
Chad Pohlman, Athletics Director

One of the strengths of The Bear Creek School is a clear and articulate mission.

To provide a high-quality, Christian liberal arts education in a nurturing environment that will enable each student to become the individual God intends.

Our mission is displayed prominently in each building, reminding us that what we do here goes beyond educating children. It is a reminder of who we are and what we do.

But what does that have to do with an athletics program, and how does participating in sports produce graduates of wisdom, compassion, and courage? More specifically, how do our sports programs, and our athletics philosophy fit into the classical education model? Perhaps a lot more than you realize!

Developing the Whole Student

Developing the whole student is at the core of the classical model and our Christian worldview affirms that each student is made in God’s image as a unique individual. As our children navigate the obstacle course of life and engage in the culture around them, we want them to be equipped to not only survive but to lead. Most of us agree that sports help develop the whole person.

M Mullett

It provides the opportunity to learn about exercise, hard work, and healthy living. It affords a reprieve from hours behind a book (or screen) and opportunities to interact with others and pursue a healthy lifestyle. Hopefully, participating in sports opens the door to a lifelong hobby and ability to play that sport for many years to come. And while all that is important, it is just the icing on the cake. Developing the whole child has a lot more to do with outcomes but not necessarily the outcomes you might think.

Success Is an Outcome

You cannot escape the competitive nature of what we do in athletics. And at the core, we are simply playing a game. But as kids get older and the level of participation increases, so does the pressure to win. That means an increased focus on outcomes, and even in youth sports, that means winning.

In a classical model, however, we challenge that assumption as best we can and look for something more purposeful than just the numbers in the wins and losses columns while understanding that winning plays a critical role. Yes, success is an outcome, but it is defined by virtue and represented through excellence.

In a way, outcomes in sports are no different than outcomes in the classroom. Winning a game is the equivalent to earning an A. Success on the court, field, or track is no different than success on a test, paper, or presentation. And of course, it matters. A lot. Is there anything wrong with wanting our kids to get good grades? Expecting it even? No, not necessarily. Similarly, in sports, is there anything wrong with challenging our kids to compete and to take pride in the success of our teams? Also, a no. Two very distinctly different questions and yet the answers are the same.

Boys and Girls Golf 2022 1A State Champions

I think that the classical approach does not diminish that. Excellence, after all, is something worthwhile and important to pursue. But the final grade in a class, just like the final score of a basketball game, is not the end. The end of learning, just like the end of participating in sports is so much more. It is on the journey toward the pursuit of excellence that our student-athletes are taught virtue and gain wisdom. So, the question remains, if winning is not the most desired outcome in sports, what is?

A Means to an End

As each student graduates and completes his or her journey at The Bear Creek School, what we want should not be surprising. It is written in our mission after all. Back where we started. We want our graduates to experience God working in them and through them, for His purpose and will. On a personal level, I want my son and two daughters to desire to understand who God is, why He created them, and who their identities are in Him. I am so thankful for their teachers who pursue this mission in partnership with us. And I am thankful for their coaches. Not more, and not less. I would not have it any other way because I understand that if the goal is producing graduates of wisdom, compassion, and courage, there are many ways to get there.

Boys basketball bench

God works in the hearts and minds of our children in any number of ways. For some, it is the English teacher who comes alongside them and teaches them about God's love through literature. For others, it is the soccer coach, instilling a passion for hard work, commitment, and selflessness. Athletics is simply another vehicle through which the mission of The Bear Creek School is delivered to our students. Athletics is not just an extracurricular activity any more than pepperoni is just an ingredient on pizza. And it is not more or less important than the other components of a K – 12 education. It is a means to an end. And a beautiful and fun one at that!


About the Author

Chad Pohlman

Chad Pohlman assumed the role of Bear Creek's Athletics Director in 2007 and loves working directly with our amazing and talented team of coaches and student-athletes at Bear Creek. He began his teaching and coaching career at The Bear Creek School in 2003 as the seventh-grade U.S. history teacher and varsity boys soccer coach after attending George Fox University in Oregon where he also started on the men’s soccer team for four years.

Chad gave up coaching Grizzlies soccer at the end of the 2019 spring season after achieving over 150 career coaching wins including seven League titles and two State Championships in 2006 and 2013. Chad is a strong supporter in Bear Creek's mission and loves to see the students develop and grow into young men and women of wisdom, compassion, and courage. Chad holds a B.A. in History, Leadership, and Video Production as well as a M.A. in Teaching from George Fox University

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