Scholar Athletes: ACT Skills Mapping for Program Development

This post is part of a series about the workshop presentations delivered at the ACT Skills Summit.

Boston Scholar Athletes is an athletics based program serving students in 19 high schools across Boston. Through Boston Scholar Athletes, students access an intramural sports league structured to help students develop ACT Skills, opportunities to receive targeted academic support from coaches and volunteers from local colleges and universities, and assistance researching and applying to colleges and for scholarships.

During the ACT Summit, Marissa Rodriguez, Director of Learning & Program Development, and Lisa Fortenberry-Spaloss, a member of the Boston Scholar Athletes Executive Leadership Team, shared their approach to using athletics to support Connect Skills: Social Awareness and Relationships, Communication, and Teamwork.

“Athletics are a powerful vehicle for youth identity formation, confidence building, valuable life skills, and personal health and wellness,” says Rodriguez.

Rodriguez and Fortenberry-Spaloss also described the steps they took to align their program to these skills and provided attendees with opportunities to reflect on their approaches to supporting skill development using a rubric they created to support skill development.

Strategy 1: Narrow your focus

Choose a few skills that align with your program’s mission and develop action plans to support them through your programming. It is not possible to target every skill.

Strategy 2: Be specific about what skills look like in your program

Take definitions of each of the skills and translate them into observable behaviors that are specific to your program. For example, in Boston Scholar Athletes Programs, staff members look specifically to see whether students can successfully self-advocate with teachers to make progress towards academic coaching goals as evidence that students are developing communication skills.

Strategy 3: Identify necessary staff competencies

It is not enough to define the behaviors you would like to see students display. In order to be successful, staff must also be competent in skill themselves, have the capacity to identify when students are displaying behavior that shows skill development, and have the ability to help students reflect on skills and their personal development.

Materials from all of the workshops at the ACT Skills Summit can be found here.