Colorado set to pilot Shift Why, which seeks to change culture of youth sports

Shift Why initiative Joe Ehrmann

Joe Ehrmann addresses a group of state leaders at Mile High on Tuesday. More photos. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

DENVER — The Colorado High School Activities Association and the Denver Broncos are helping to pilot an initiative during the 2015-16 season which seeks transform the culture of sports.

The initiative, Shift Why, is a national initiative backed by the NFL — in Colorado, the Broncos — which will debut this year in Colorado, Minnesota and Texas.

Shift Why seeks to:

Transform the current 'win-at-all-costs' sports culture, where the value is only defined by the outcome on the scoreboard and the win-loss record, to a culture that defines and promotes sports as a human growth experience that focuses on the intentional development of the educational, social, and emotional well-being of each student-athlete.

On Tuesday, a group of roughly 40 leaders from around the state — athletic directors, district athletic directors, school board members, and leaders from many other organizations — gathered for a four-hour seminar at Sports Authority Field at Mile High from Joe Ehrmann and Jody Redman, who have teamed up to create Shift Why.

Shift Why initiative Jody Redman

Jody Redman. More photos. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Ehrmann is a nationally-respected author and motivational speaker who played in the NFL for 10 seasons. He has devoted much of his life to off-the-field service and initiatives such as Shift Why.

Redman, the associate director of the Minnesota State High School League, has a long history of involvement with programs like this. She developed the curriculum for the nationally-successful Why We Play, as well as the emerging Anyone Can Save a Life.

"We're here to help your mission of what you're already doing," Ehrmann told the group. "I think sports has an incredible role to play in helping America."

"We talked about being a blueprint for systemic change," Redman said. "The first step to that change is awareness. We have to be aware of why we do this, educational-based athletics."

Team Colorado, as the leaders of the initiative in this state will be known, will be responsible for many facets of Shift Why. It takes a three-step approach:

  • Awareness: Identifying the current problem with youth sports — a culture "focused on win-loss records, scholarships and awards" — and then defining the purpose of education-based athletics, which the initiative says can "provide students with growth that will sustain them well beyond physical skill development and the knowledge of a game."
  • Alignment: Instilling a common language, ensuring that "school leaders and communities ... have an in-depth understanding of the purpose of education-based programs." And establishing clear expectations and policies that "define a new standard of expectation."
  • Action: Providing education to faculty, administrators and others to help coaches "in redefining and re-framing the social responsibility of sports." And establishing accountability with those coaches and athletic administrators.

While the goal of the initiative is to move sports away from the "win-at-all-costs" mentality, Redman said, "This isn't about giving up the goal to win. Goals are important."

"But it's about empathy and changing the world for good," she added. "That's what education-based athletics are about."

Said Ehrmann: "I think a great myth is that sports build character. Sports does not build character in a 'win-at-all-costs' mentality."

The seminar attendees will now take what they learned on Tuesday and spread it to their communities, and around the state, in order to help change the culture of youth sports in Colorado.

Shift Why will hold a statewide seminar on Oct. 8-9 at Mile High. The CHSAA office will disseminate further information on that session in the near future.

Shift Why initiative

More photos. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)