Athletics activities offer opportunities to learn and demonstrate character

Athletics, activities offer opportunities to learn and demonstrate character
Superintendent Tom Lee guest column for the Waseca County News, published 3/9/16

Superintendent Tom LeeSchools exist for a few reasons including developing the intellectual, social/emotional attributes in students, to transmit the values of the community and to promote citizenship. While most focus on the intellectual or academic development of students, the other primary purposes cannot be lost. There is an old saying that “values aren’t taught — they are caught.”


In Waseca Public Schools, we specifically teach values like respect, responsibility, honesty, integrity, being polite, cooperation and having a strong work ethic. Yet our students also get the benefit of seeing these values live out by the school staff and the community. Watching the section final game against Marshall, I was moved not only by how our students are clearly catching these values but how our community models them.


This is obviously an exciting time for Waseca Public Schools and for the community as our boys’ team heads to the state basketball tournament. On the court and off of it, I can see evidence of a strong work ethic both from our team and our band. Our student section and our crowd is always respectful and responsible. When other teams’ fans cry out “air ball” or some other chant meant to put an opponent down, we refrain. We may have an inclination to retaliate but we refrain. Why? Because we are Bluejays and that is just not how we roll. We take pride in doing things the right way! Is this always true? Of course not. There are plenty of examples of students (and sometimes adults) making poor choices. These however are the exception, not the rule. The world could learn a great deal from a close examination of Waseca values.


Things like athletics and state tournaments can be seen through a cynical eye. Schools can overestimate the value of athletics, as can the media. The vast majority of kids will not continue their pursuits after high school, so why spend so much time promoting these things? Simply put, athletics and other activities offer numerous opportunities to learn and demonstrate character.


Recently I have been reminded of several things including: victory and defeat are often not far apart; hard work pays off but not for everyone (or all the time); you can’t win if you don’t play the game; practice may not make perfect but is still essential to success and many other similar lessons. It is important that students leave Waseca Public Schools with knowledge and skills but if they are ethical cads, we have not done our jobs. Athletics and activities provide opportunities for us to help students develop character.


Win or lose at the state tourney, we are all winners because we are successfully transmitting the positive hometown values to our students. They are a reflection of the love and support they have received not just from their families but from this staff and this town. Words cannot express how proud I am of our students and community. Thank you for the privilege you give the staff of Waseca Public Schools to help guide these students into adulthood.


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.“ —Margaret Mead


Tom Lee is the superintendent of Waseca Schools. Reach him at 507-835-2500 or