This year, when Collingswood High School (CHS) athletes take their respective fields, they will have a greater support network than ever before, comprising their teachers, coaches and peers.
Athletes will still wear their jerseys to school on game days, and there will still be a big pep rally Friday to kick off the fall sports season. But this year, CHS is also debuting “Code Navy,” a program intended to improve both scholarship and morale among the student body.
CHS Athletic Director Ronald Hamrick said the idea is based on Rider University’s “Code Cranberry” program, and he’s hoping it catches on in Collingswood.
Every athlete was given a Code Navy T-shirt at a late August barbecue announcing the program. They are all asked to attend at least one game per season in support of their fellow athletes (admission is free to those wearing their Code Navy shirts), and all CHS coaches are adjusting their practice schedules to accommodate the program.
“The whole thing is everybody working together, coming together and supporting everybody,” Hamrick said. “It’s something to bring all the kids together to support them as one big family.”
In addition to revving up the players for competition, Code Navy also means keeping them eligible to play. Starting Oct. 1, ninth-period (after school) study hall will be mandatory for any athlete whose coach demands it of him or her, and out-of-season coaches will take turns rotating through as tutors.
“We’re trying to get one coach per day in there four days a week, and miss a half-hour of practice,” Hamrick says. “That’s all we’re asking.”
Hamrick also knows that keeping students on pace with their assignments also helps multi-sport athletes maintain their eligibility from season to season, which made Code Navy an easy sell to his coaches. If a football player loses his eligibility in-season and that same athlete plays basketball, then two coaches are short-handed. So far Code Navy has helped every student who needed to complete summer school for fall sports eligibility to do so.
Some will also need the help refocusing their energies in other ways, he says.
“I think behavior is a huge thing,” Hamrick said. “If you’re getting sent down to the office and I’ve got to talk to you, then you’re not in class. We have a new attendance policy: if you’re in after 8:50, you can’t practice. That happens very little in-season, but as soon as they’re done, they slack off.”
As much as some of his students enjoy playing sports, Hamrick says, some of them simply aren’t going to attend college. Moreover, he says, some parents harbor an expectation that if their children are competitive at the high-school level they will necessarily earn a college athletic scholarship, which is extremely difficult to do.
“College is a different level,” Hamrick says. “Some parents want their kids to go to D-I when they can get a great education at D-III and pay less.
“They have no choice if they don’t have good grades,” he said.
With the Code Navy program and the backing of their coaches, CHS athletes may have more of an opportunity to succeed than ever before, Hamrick says. So far, the response has been uniformly positive.
“Now we have to see what happens for the first year,” he said.