Encourage Artists.

I’m finally emerging from the yearly musical-induced hibernation and starting to resume a sense of normal routine, which includes writing here. And the first post back from hiatus is a bit of a rant.

If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you may have seen this 2016 video of University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma talking about body language of athletes. This week, he spoke about the importance of teammates.

Then there’s this video from former Wisconsin’s women’s basketball coach Bobbie Kelsey.

Even Senator Ben Sasse published his thoughts on losing, and the role parents have to play in helping students rise above disappointment.

I love basketball, and I love all of these messages, but I’m also conflicted.

Why is it so easy to like, share, and agree with these words in a sporting context, but we don’t often see the same sentiments expressed about other activities, or even–gasp–education? The skills that Auriemma, Kelsey, and Sasse say are vital for athletes, I say are vital for any artist.

I advise a student newspaper and website, and all of these videos have application to my staffers. They sometimes are so focused on their own work and lives that they sometimes forget that the work they do (or don’t do) reflects on everyone on staff. They sometimes get frustrated with stories not getting published or entered in contests, but they don’t practice their writing. They experience disappointment with editorial decisions, or they don’t place well in contests, and find resilience difficult to come by.

And I’ve seen the same behaviors with nearly every activity my colleagues coach and sponsor, and the same behaviors in classes.

So I’m glad these videos are out there and go viral–I just ask that when we share them, we realize the advice of these coaches can apply to pretty much anything our students engage in.

I tell my writing and photography students every semester that they only way they will improve is to practice. And practice, I tell them, is not always a grade, just like shooting free throws for 10 minutes after practice isn’t winning a game down the stretch. Though I’m quick to add that practice will improve their grades and skills just like shooting free throws after practice will win games down the stretch.

With the arts and humanities increasingly under assault from the highest levels, it’s more important than ever to apply these lessons from athletic leaders to our milieu. Budding writers, musicians, artists, photographers– they all need a sense of what it means to be a teammate, they all need to practice, they all need to spend some time away from their phones, and they all need to learn the resilience lessons that losing and disappointment teach.

The more practice, teamwork, and resilience we can instill in our artists is one way we can ensure the survival of the arts, not only in schools, but also in our communities. Because as much as I love basketball–and I do love it quite a bit–I also love reading and writing and concerts and plays.

Encourage artists the way we already encourage athletes.

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