Norfolk Academy celebrated the start of the athletics year on the night of August 30, with a fun welcome for student-athletes and parents.
The festivities included dinner around the Pit and music from talented teacher-coaches Jordon Crichlow and Cheney Doane. Greetings in Burroughs Gymnasium from Headmaster Dennis Manning and Director of Athletics Chad Byler followed, along with a keynote address from Trustee Sandra Porter Leon '80, who both played for the Bulldogs and is the mother of Erin '08 and Ben '11, who were student-athletes at the school.
Mr. Manning opened, saying that while the many teacher-coaches in the Academy program certainly want to win - and do plenty of winning each year - their ultimate responsibility and goal is to make their student-athletes better people. “Our athletic program exists to advance or serve the larger moral and character building mission and aspirations of the school," he said.
Mr. Byler echoed that sentiment, saying, “I want us to be the best, but we are not going to compromise who we are. We are not going to compromise our values. We are here to build young men and women, boys and girls up to be great adults."
Another point Mr. Byler emphasized is that, with more than 70 teams across 27 sports, every student can find a place to feel at home. He also noted the plethora of teacher-coaches in the program - 59 with fall teams alone. “These coaches have a big responsibility and they know that," he said. “They want to impact these students and they spend hours doing that. We talk about the ways they are going to love, serve, and care every day."
Mrs. Leon has been a leader in the push to improve the health and wellness of Hampton Roads, in work for CHKD, as a professor for Tidewater Community College, and as a nutrition consultant for The Neighborhood Harvest, among a host of other efforts. She encouraged students to try different sports and find ones they enjoy most. She also accentuated the value of the bonds that form on teams. She noted that she remains close with some of her teammates from more than 40 years ago.
“Sports fosters great relationships with new and old friends," she said. “The friendships that you develop now, today, are going to be the friends who you have for the rest of your life."
To parents, she offered a simple message, saying memories of watching their children play will be ones they cherish for years to come. “Just enjoy this time," she said.
Learn more about the Academy athletics department, including schedules, NA-TV game broadcasts, and the teacher-coach model.