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Athletic Participation Changes Lives

Choosing to participate in sports is the first step in a student-athlete’s journey of character development.

I recently read this quote in a weekly newsletter from The Growth Equation, an organization dedicated to enhancing performance and well-being: “Traveling is better than arriving. If you develop the mindset, ‘If I just do____, or just accomplish ____, THEN I’ll arrive,’ you are in for a rude awakening. The human brain evolved to value wanting over liking. The podium lasts a minute; the training lasts a decade.”

I immediately sent these words to my track and field athletes. Athletes are often goal-oriented—which is a great thing. However, issues arise when an athlete solely focuses on their outcome goals and fails to set process goals.


Process goals help athletes enjoy the trip, not just reach the destination

At Providence, our athletes understand the importance of setting process goals. Without process goals, we likely will fail to achieve our desired outcome. More importantly, we will not enjoy “traveling” to our destination. The teamwork, character development, problem-solving, and time management athletes learn throughout a season or a four-year career is why we encourage participation in sports.

First steps on the journey

We encourage participation in sports because we believe in the power of educational athletics to teach and develop young people. Many of our student-athletes join a sport having never played it before. They take on the challenge of learning something new and stepping out of their comfort zones. Because we are a small school, this is possible for our students. Every student has an opportunity to try something new athletically. And they will be coached by caring coaches who are excited to teach and share their passion for their sport.

A culture of participation

Seventy-nine percent of Providence Upper School students participate in a sport, and many participate in multiple sports throughout the year. Our students have recognized the opportunity of participating in athletics and have taken advantage of it. This high participation rate also trends down through our Middle and Lower Schools. Older students encourage the younger ones to join their team, imparting wisdom and challenging them to “just try it out,” for after all, they were in the same position just two or three years ago. 

A culture of participation is created from within. It starts with the coaches ensuring a welcoming environment that is engaging and exciting for beginners. The excitement and eagerness to learn and then to teach others is contagious, and the older student-athletes have a chance to come full circle and share that excitement with younger participants.

Lessons athletes learned firsthand

To verify what I’ve observed about the importance of athletics in the student experience, I informally interviewed a few of our veteran student-athletes while enjoying the sunshine during a lunch break. Senior basketball player Diego emphasized the importance of the physical training that comes with joining a team. He remarked, “Through playing basketball, I’ve learned life-long lessons about how to take care of my body.” Diego also highlighted the sense of belonging that comes with participating in Patriots basketball: “Whether or not you have played basketball before, as soon as you join the team you are joining a family. My best friends were made through playing sports.”

Athletic prefect Teleios, a junior, shared that he has learned vital lessons around finding balance and prioritizing the most important things in life. Teleios is a stellar hockey player, playing on the Santa Barbara Royals club team. Although he plays hockey at a high level, he still chooses to challenge himself by participating in two sports for Providence—track and field and beach volleyball. He was fairly new to both sports when he started, but Teleios saw the value in humbling himself and developing new skills. He has grown in his ability to discipline himself and consistently work hard toward his goals. 

Fellow athletic prefect and standout three-sport athlete, Avala, fired off a list of traits she has learned through Providence athletics: “Communication, discipline, consistency, hard work, perspective, internal motivation,” to name a few. When she encourages beginner players to join one of her teams, Avala highlights the importance of fully jumping in. She notes that the lessons learned don’t come only once you’ve proven yourself athletically. She believes there is so much to learn in the beginning of playing a sport, such as how to be a team player and support the more experienced players in achieving their individual and team goals. These are lessons that transcend high school athletics and are applicable to family, work, spiritual, and social life. Avala believes that becoming coachable is a learned behavior. Being a student-athlete requires one to humble themselves and be willing to take constructive feedback and apply what they’ve learned the next time the situation comes around.

Participating in athletics can be a life-changing experience

As you can see, we have some amazing student-athletes at Providence. These students are not only fantastic athletes, they are wonderful and impressive people who are intentional about growing and developing in their emotional, social, and physical intelligence. 

Everyone starts as a beginner at one point in time. These three athletes all were once beginners and so are countless others with each new sports season. Choosing to participate in sports at Providence is the first step in a journey of character development. 

Providence coaches have outcome goals that we want to see our student-athletes accomplish, but we understand the importance of making the process enjoyable and we note the many accomplishments that our athletes achieve along the way. 

As our enrollment grows we desire to maintain a high percentage for sports participation, because we know simply participating can be life changing. 



Evan Covell

Before being named athletic director in 2021, Coach Covell was already deeply involved in the Providence community, having trained the track and field and cross-country teams for the previous four years. He continues to coach those teams while directing all Providence athletics programs.


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