What does it mean to be a student-athlete at Riverdale?
This year, Riverdale’s faculty and coaches are learning about another side of the student experience.
“Our kids spend a lot of time in sports,” said Athletic Director John Pizzi. “The idea was to bring awareness to the teachers about just how much time that is.”
Pizzi launched the “Coach for a Day” program to encourage faculty and coaches to learn more about the entire experience of Riverdale athletes. More than 80 percent of Riverdale’s high school students take part in at least one after-school team, learning not just the strategy and technique associated with their sport but also developing the character strengths fostered by the school’s academic programs.
This fall, Sarah Banks, an Upper School English teacher and director of the writing center, spent time with the varsity football team, attending a Friday practice and a Saturday game from warm ups through the post game. Pizzi said she was struck by how much the players fit into their day. After classes end at 3:15, players put in high intensity practices until 5:45, and don’t get home for dinner and homework until 6:30. They have to be organized and focused to fit everything in.
In return, Pizzi and Lance Ramer, the football coach, attended one of her classes. "I have always admired Sarah's passion for teaching and learning, and to see her with the football program with such zest for knowledge, both about the game and the players, was quite refreshing," Ramer said. "It was also a pleasure seeing Sarah teach that the same principles hold true, both on and off the field."
Pizzi said he appreciated how Banks connected themes in The Odyssey to the athletic experience. “She equated some of the struggles in The Odyssey to struggles on the football field, to the perseverance and grit that she saw the players had," Pizzi said. “It was great to see how passionate she was. She really jumped into it and had a great time with it.”
Up next: Jason Curry, director of music for the Middle and Upper School, who has spent time with the girls tennis team, even hitting some balls with the coach. And as the year goes on, Pizzi hopes that more teachers and coaches will experience a different side of Riverdale.