ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys' commitment to high school athletics has long been a topic of discussion, and that was made particularly evident Tuesday at AT&T Stadium.
There, in the West Plaza of one of the world's nicest stadiums, the Cowboys came together to hold the NFL Foundation's Texas High School Character Education Forum with help from the Texas High School Coaches Association and the University Interscholastic League.
Tuesday marked the second such meeting, as the partnership, with help from the Cowboys and team executive vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson seeks to change the way high school athletics are coached and taught in the state of Texas.
"I think it's a critical program that's needed to change the culture from 'win at all costs' to more of a transformational type of coaching and education-based athletics," said D.W. Rutledge, Executive Director of the THSCA. "We feel like coaches can make a difference. They can stand in the gap, and they've got a real opportunity to make a difference. We just need to give them the tools to do it with. We need to start that conversation."
Jones Anderson was on hand to start the conversation, as she addressed those in attendance on Tuesday morning. In just two short months, the forum grew from roughly 80 high school administrators to 225 total superintendents, athletic directors and coaches from across the area.
"You have the opportunity to be significant in the lives of every student you touch," Jones Anderson said. "Today I challenge us all to put our heads together, to work together as a team to find out how we can be the best character-developing coaches that we can be – how we can come together and stand for what's right, stand for what we love in our game, the competition in our game, but how we play our game at the end of the day."
The day featured a packed agenda, as Jones Anderson and Rutledge were joined by UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt and UIL Athletic Director Susan Elza. The program also featured talks from Joe Ehrmann, a 13-year NFL veteran and the president of Coach For America.
"Once you spend time with Charlotte, you realize that she's just passionate about it. Put the Cowboys aside, she thinks this is what's best for kids – and that's what makes you hop on board with it," Elza said. "You add the glitz and glamor that they can add to these types of events and hosting in this venue and providing all the resources they have for all these schools to be able to attend this – there's just no words to put it into how impressive that is."
With two meetings completed, coaches and administrators will return to their districts statewide in an effort to evaluate and implement changes across all sports – for all genders. Webinars will follow in May and June, and the forum is scheduled to meet once again at the Texas High School Coaches Association's annual conference in San Antonio in July.