Why We Play, APR'14

Why We Play:
Examining the Changing Face of Sports at Boys’ Schools in the 21st Century

St. Mark's School of Texas, Dallas, TX

2–4 April 2014


The International Boys’ Schools Coalition will host a conference from April 2-4, 2014 at St. Mark’s School of Texas on Why We Play: Examining the Changing Face of Sports at Boys’ Schools in the 21st Century.

The conference begins at 3:45 pm. on Wednesday, April 2, with our opening session and a student panel followed by a reception and dinner; continues through the day on Thursday, April 3 and concludes on Friday, April 4 by noon. All conference events take place at St Mark’s School of Texas.

Why We Play is aimed at Directors of Athletics, coaches and trainers, and at Assistant Heads of School, Deans of Faculty and others who work closely with the athletics programs in our schools.

In designing the conference, we interviewed a number of DAs, and with their help three areas for focus were identified: the impact of specialization on boys, program and school; the urgent concern about the safety of our young athletes; and the character lessons of athletic participation and competition. Drawing on recognized experts and professionals, the conference program will combine keynote addresses and participatory workshops addressing these three areas.

  • Schools around the world are witnessing an increase in athletic specialization as students are being encouraged to channel specific athletic pursuits in an increasingly intense and perhaps limiting manner. To many it appears that the proverbial genie of specialization is “out of the bottle.” The consequences for the individual athletic and the nature and spirit of the program are profound. How can we resist or find reasonable balance in this trend?
  • Also, it is timely to revisit, refresh and re-new the vital role that sports, team and competition can play in the character education and leadership development of boys and young men. Surrounded by a culture of sport that has become too often so toxic and negative, our programs need to clarify, assert and celebrate how sports can be positive, authentic and meaningful in the building of character.
  • Every day, we are hearing about and reading more and more about matters of the health and safety of children involved in contact sport, especially concussions. Because sports in general – contact sports in particular – have played such a vitally important role in our schools through the years, these concerns are becoming more and more urgent. How are we going to balance the traditional benefits of participation in contact sports with the health and welfare of our boys? This is an occasion to identify those “best in class” policies, protocols, and programs in place now in our schools – and to help us identify where we need to focus, what we need to know, and how we can improve.

While this conference is the first one sponsored by the IBSC to focus solely on sports, it follows the lead of virtually every other IBSC-sponsored conference: an opportunity to share effective practices and challenges. The program includes a round-table session, in which participants are asked to bring other questions, concerns or issues about running sports programs in our schools. Insight and best practices will be shared. We will also discuss ideas for creating a sustainable network to share expertise, and to design future conferences or initiatives in this topic. True to our traditions, this is also a wonderful opportunity for good fellowship and friend-building.

We look forward to welcoming you at St. Mark’s School of Texas for Why We Play!