Character Development in Athletics

Emily Magnus
The Holderness athletic philosophy centers on graduating healthy kids and recognizing that what happens on the playing fields impacts learning in many ways. Certainly Holderness cares about competitive challenges and winning contests but there is something far greater about athletics -- striving to be your best, working together as a team, and emphasizing character development. In the service of developing good citizens, Athletic Director Rick Eccleston announced the Carry the Luggage initiative last year and he is doubling up on the initiative this year. Below is last year’s post describing the award and how it came about.
What he discovered was The Captain Class: The Hidden Force that Creates the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker. In the book, Walker explains his 11-year inquiry into what traits are shared by the greatest sports teams of all times. Coaches and talented players and money are all important, says Walker, but it’s the leadership of the captains that makes the difference.

One player in particular that Walker describes drew Rick’s attention. Carla Overbeck was the captain of the US national women’s soccer team when they won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics and the World Cup in 1999. She wasn’t a lead scorer; in fact, she played defense and wasn’t even considered one of the team’s most talented players. She was their captain, however, and she took the role seriously, pushing her teammates to be their best. She also carried their luggage. At every hotel, she made sure she was the first one off the bus and had her teammates’ luggage waiting for them in their rooms when they arrived.

Rick was impressed with Overbeck’s selfless behavior and decided to share the story with the seniors. “I wanted them to remember that the value isn’t always in the end product but in just being a good team player,” he explains.

The idea stuck with him after graduation, and he realized the value in sharing this idea with the whole community. He knows the importance of teaching student athletes to think of others before themselves, after all, it is the Holderness motto-- Pro Deo et Genere Humano (For God and Humankind).

He also recognized that it is a good lesson for young coaches. “It gives new coaches something to think about beyond strategy and their win-loss record,” says Rick. “We need to build not just students’ athletic skills but their citizenship and leadership skills as well.”
To start the school year, Rick gave a bracelet to every member of the community-- students, faculty, maintenance crew, housekeeping, dining services, admissions, advancement, and business office. Written on the bracelets were the words “Carry the Luggage.” “If you can think of your teammates before yourself,” he explains, “we’ll be all set. And then, if you can apply this idea to the rest of your life, we’ll be a better community.”

Rick also has plans to change the weekly athletic award. Instead of giving out awards to players who have made impressive goals or outstanding plays, he plans to recognize the students who have stepped up and carried their team’s luggage. “It’s nice to win,” he says. “But the students need to learn that it’s about participation and about working together to accomplish something greater than one person can alone. That’s what it means to carry the luggage.”

We will be honoring students who “Carry the Luggage” again this year! 
Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness NH, 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257