Nic Fiszman is a Bay parent, science instructor, advisor, 10th-Grade Class Dean and boys JV soccer coach. His many roles here at Bay give him unique insight into how academics, athletics and community combine to shape students’ experiences and help them grow.
What’s special about Bay’s athletic program?
I think our athletic program is unique because it allows students an entry level to athletics, which is not available at most schools. Because we’re a young school, because we have a junior varsity program, we can afford to take students who have never played a sport but who are interested and curious and willing to work. We can train them and give them a sense of what that means to play that sport.
The ethics of sportsmanship aligns itself pretty well with our Precepts. I think that we play and live by the Precepts on the field and on the court – we value input, participation, hard work and help. I think that we play on the field the way we behave in the hallways; our kids are kind. Systematically we get props for having really good sportsmanship. Our kids compete but they’re human and they care. And whenever I go to a Bay game, I think the quality of the fans – the intensity and respect that they bring to being fans – is great.
What can students learn from being part of a team?
I think participating in athletics builds character in a variety of ways. I think all our coaches value hard work, diligence and staying with the work. We foster team spirit and support for one another. It also helps the kids stay organized; the kids who are doing sports have less time to do their work, so they have to be much more judicious about their time management – I think that’s the overlap between academics and athletics.
For example, Luc ’15 was part of the JV program for two years. Last year he was a sophomore and a team captain, and as team captain he had to learn how to manage his team, talk to his players and lead by example. Not only say the right things, but also do the right things – I think that’s a skill. That then transfers to all his other leadership positions, so when there’s a harder decision to be made, he’s willing to get into it and he’s not afraid of the consequences, of being public, of standing up. He knows where he stands in terms of his values. He has a broader understanding of what it means to be a student here.
How has coaching changed the way you approach your work as a teacher and dean?
Personally, I don’t think of myself as a teacher so much as I think of myself as a coach, both for my classes and for my team. I think when you see yourself as a teacher only, it is much easier to live in the realm of ideas and content – you’re responsible for the content, transferring the content to the student, and the whole student gets lost in the shuffle. Whereas I’m thinking about the kid’s experience as a dean, as a coach, as a teacher, as an advisor, as a dad now – I’m thinking much more widely about what’s good for the kid overall.
How do students benefit from opportunities to get involved?
Kids coming out of middle school have sort of formed an image of what they are – an athlete, a scholar, a scientist, a writer. The case to be made for coming to Bay is, “Are you an interesting person? We will develop that person.” You may think you’re a mathematician and then completely fall in love with our humanities program and also become a lacrosse player. Isn’t that so great? Isn’t that amazing that you can do that? There are so many choices. You can either feed the person you knew you had or you can discover yourself in a completely new light. Take new courses; take a dance class. If you’ve taken Spanish, you can take 4 and 5 and say, “You know what? I’m going to take Mandarin for the last two years.” That’s doable here. For sports it’s the same thing. You can say, “I’ve never done sports, but I’m willing to try. I have this opportunity and I’m going to take it.” That’s how you discover new passions.
For example, Anna ’13 discovered she was a cross-country runner when she’d never done any running before, then last year she qualified for state. Had we not had a program that allowed students like Anna to join, she would have never discovered she was a runner. She had good coaches and support from team members and the rest of the school. That’s awesome.
At Bay we care about the whole being, and so to be able to be playful, intense, intentional, focused, have fun, be physical and intellectual at the same time and all in the framework of the same Precepts, I think is illustrated in our school really well.