Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series featuring new Crestview High School Principal Dexter Day. In this issue, Day discusses his academic vision for Crestview athletes. He will address athletics in the July 30-Aug. 1 edition.
CRESTVIEW — First-year Crestview High School Principal Dexter Day’s face lights up and his voice fills with excitement when he talks of his vision for the school and its athletic program.
Day is no stranger to the school or Bulldog athletics. He is a 1978 Crestview High graduate and was a star baseball and football player for the Bulldogs. His siblings attended Crestview, as did his daughters. Drawing from his experiences, Day said expectations start in the classroom for the estimated 35-40 percent of CHS students involved in sports.
“... All athletes are student-athletes,” Day said. “You have to look at the name student-athlete — academics first, athletics second. “I don’t know what percent, but I would say almost 97 or 98 percent of athletes end their careers at high school, and the academic or job world comes in after that.
"When you look at the student-athlete, we have to prepare our student-athletes to go to the next level academically and athletically.”
Today's classroom lessons will sustain students long after high school, Day said.
“The academic piece will springboard them into the job world, whether they are a welder or an electrician or they go to college to be electrical engineers.”
Making the grade
Student-athletes won’t just be expected to make the grades needed to stay athletically eligible. Day has a plan to ensure academic casualties among athletes stay minimal to non-existent.
“If they carry a GPA that is between a 2.0 and a 2.5, they are required to go to tutoring two days a week until they can get that GPA over 2.5. That, in itself, will remedy a lot of problems academically and it will hold them accountable.
“It holds them accountable, and there has to be accountability for them to do the academics because that’s the most important piece. They’ve got to take ownership into the academic piece. That has got to be our primary focus.”
That doesn't take away from athletics, Day said, but he knows that sports are temporary.
“Nobody knows the athletic piece more than I do and how important it is, how much fun it is,” he said. “When I got my athletic scholarship (to play baseball at William Carey College) it literally took me around the world because I got to leave Crestview. I got to work with the Rotary Club and it took me to India and I got to see Canada playing minor league baseball.
“But the fellow sitting in front of you today is the academic piece. It’s academic before athletics. It’s got to be.”
COACHES' ROLE IN ACADEMICS
As a former athlete and coach, Day understands the impact coaches have on student-athletes' lives.
“We’ve got to, as coaches, let them know if you are a dummy in the classroom you are a dummy on the field,” Day said. “You have got to learn in the classroom before you can learn out there. If you can’t do it in the classroom you aren’t going to be able to do it on the field.
“If they see us showing the importance of academics, they are going to buy it. But if we don’t show it, they are going to go, ‘Coach don’t think it’s right, let’s get out of here.’ Kids put coaches on pedestals, and if the coach doesn’t think academics are important, they are going to emulate what we say and do.”
Day’s plans and vision for the Bulldog athletic program surpass Friday nights at Jack Foster Stadium or a spring baseball game. The lifelong Crestview resident expects the Bulldogs to give back to the community.
“Another vision and initiative that I have for our student-athletes is to interact with the community more,” Day said. “The way to do that is to require all of our coaches (have their teams) to go out and do at least one community service. I don’t care if it is raking yards or picking up for the elderly.
“I want them to build relationships in the community so the community knows who we are and that we can give back. Relationships are great and I want them to do that.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.