Society believes that sports and athletics can provide youth with experiences to foster the growth of character, ethics and leadership skills. It is commonly thought that crossing the finish line, scoring a goal or making a touchdown can equate to strengthening a student-athlete's moral fiber.
However, a young person's maturity and development through sports can only occur when the adults around them are deliberate and committed teaching and coaching character values on the field and in the classroom.
The Dallas Cowboys are committed to providing meaningful programming and resources to coaches, athletes, parents and educators that will help change the current "win-at-all-costs" sports mentality that pervades our culture
"A student's emotional and mental well-being is just as important as his or her physical health. Character is a learned behavior and if we can teach positive decision-making and prepare students for the many life lessons they will face both in and out of school, we know we can make a difference," said Charlotte Jones Anderson, Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer.
By strengthening the dialog and recognizing the great work being done to transform athletics into a tool for healthy human growth, we can provide students – both boys and girls – with an experience that truly offers character development.
"The NFL has a long-standing commitment to making positive change across society," said Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Helping young people learn to act with integrity, become leaders, and stand up for others are important values."
The Dallas Cowboys joined the Denver Broncos in 2016 as only the second NFL market to pilot the NFL Foundation's league-wide Character Education effort based on the philosophy of former NFL player and nationally recognized coach and author Joe Ehrmann. The InSideOut Initiative in Texas brought together key athletic decision-makers for meetings designed to educate and create a movement of change.
"The great myth in America today is that sports builds character. That's not true in a win-at-all-costs culture. Sports doesn't build character unless the coach models it, nurtures it and teaches it," says Ehrmann.
The Cowboys partnered with the UIL and Texas High School Coaches Association to present the InSideOut concepts to coaches, athletic coordinators and superintendents from schools across Texas, with a goal of creating transformational change at the administrative level first, that would trickle down to the student-athletes, parents and community in a grassroots manner.
Over the course of three different meetings, nearly 1,000 coaches and stakeholders – for both boys and girls sports – received training and information on the initiative and are working to engage their individual programs in discussions and activities that will elevate the athletics experience for both students and coaches.
As part of this effort, Arlington ISD (AISD) was awarded nearly $30,000 in grant monies by the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation to implement the first district-wide effort to fully-integrate the InSideOut character education teachings and resources on a weekly basis across their entire roster of coaches of all sports for both boys and girls. With leadership from AISD district and athletics administration, character lessons are pushed out to the coaches on a weekly basis with topics that are timely, deep reaching and prevalent to societal news. As the first district in the country to fully embrace the effort, Arlington is serving as the NFL Foundation's national model for implementation across a full school district for all genders and all sports.
"I think covering the lesson before the game during our pregame had the girls all believing in themselves, due to the discussion of understanding their roles on the team and how important each one of them are for us to reach or potential. After talking with the other coaches with off season, they said the girls really liked the lesson and talked a lot about the teams they have been on in the past that were great. I was impressed with my team because in the discussion we had, not one player mentioned winning or losing." – Rhonda Onley, Athletic Coordinator, Bailey Junior High
For more information on the InSideOut Initiative and to get on board, visit www.insideoutinitiative.org
The Dallas Cowboys have partnered with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (UWMD), United Way of Tarrant County (UWTC), and EverFi to launch Character PlaybookTM, an online course focused on helping students develop character and engage in healthy relationships.
The digital system created by EverFi and funded by the NFL Foundation and United Way Worldwide takes students through a variety of scenarios and asks them to examine their emotions, reactions and actions on topics like bullying, dating violence, bystander intervention and more.
Character Playbook is comprised of six interactive, digital modules that cover key concepts around positive character development, social-emotional learning, and building healthy relationships. Designed for learners in grades 7-9, the digital learning experience enables students to engage with true-to-life scenarios.
To launch Character Playbook, Dallas Cowboys rookies and veteran players visited with students in Frisco ISD and Arlington ISD and shared their experiences on bullying, being different and handling their emotions.