As members of the Santa Monica High School football team have trained for the upcoming season, coach Ramsey Lambert has implored them to think beyond how much weight they’re lifting or how fast they’re running.
Personal concepts like work ethic and shared ideas like teamwork and accountability, he said, are just as important to how the Vikings fare on the field this year.
“It’s getting them to understand, ‘What does it take to be a successful football player?’” said Lambert, who is entering his second year at the helm of the program. “It’s about more than just relying on the abilities you have.”
Lambert views football as a means of teaching teenagers the life lessons they’ll use years after graduating from high school, and many local sports coaches approach their jobs with similar philosophies.
The importance of their work is seemingly underscored after several months of tense news events, from shootings and terrorist attacks around the world to racial strife and combative relationships between police and citizens at home. Orlando. Dallas. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Nice, France. And the list goes on.
“Summer has been difficult in this country,” CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said in a recent interview with the Daily Press. “Kids have seen what’s happened here at home and around the world. As they come back to school, what’s their impression, their look at the future?
“Kids from different racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds come together and set aside individual issues for their teams, and I think they’re a shining example of what people in our society need to be. We don’t need to be divided by color and religion and money.”
As the 2016-17 school year arrived, Wigod used his introductory welcome letter to weigh in on the value of sports at a time of unrest and uncertainty in politics, civic relationships and global affairs. He said he felt it was necessary to reiterate that education-based athletics can help students develop their interpersonal skills.
“It really is bigger than that win and lose,” he said. “People from different orientations can all get together and do something together and prove that that’s what works.”
The section doesn’t expect every coach at every school to address explicitly the violence and tragedy that have dominated world events while students have been away from school. But guidelines are in place in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district regarding expectations for student-athletes, including at Samohi.
“Samohi interscholastic athletic competition strives to demonstrate high ethical standards and sportsmanship,” the school’s website reads. “Samohi believes the highest potential of sports is achieved when participants are committed to pursuing victory with honor according to six core principles: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship.”
Wigod said the ideal student-athletes are role models for fans and community members.
“You want to see people set aside their differences, work with a group to achieve a goal and work as a team? That’s the most noble cause there is, and that’s what we do every day,” he said. “How are [students] going to view their classmates and teammates? Are they going to trust each other? We’re trying to be an example of what’s right.”