For years, the conclusion of each school sports season at Belmont Hill meant that students could expect a familiar sight at their lunch tables: the end-of-season athletics survey. Three times a year during mud week, every boy fumbled around for a writing utensil to fill out their grease-stained yellow sheet, sharing their level of satisfaction on everything from team uniforms to practice methods. After they made their way to the end of the table, the surveys were rarely given a second thought. But from there, the responses went through a detailed, rigorous review process that the Athletic Department considers integral to their operations.
Though students may be skeptical, Assistant Director of Athletics Mr. Murphy promises that “we really do read over every one.” For more than a decade, Mr. Murphy would personally sort every survey by sport and team, compiling them all in a labeled binder. He still has three seasons worth of sheets from over 15 years. “I’ve never thrown one away,” Mr. Murphy attests. This Fall, the Athletic Department began sending the athletic surveys over email, eliminating the tedious job of organizing the sheets. Though Belmont Hill has seen instances when online surveys have struggled to get respondents, the sports surveys found success; around 420 students gave their opinions on the Fall season. While that number represents a slight drop, Mr. Murphy noticed that students appeared to give more thorough answers.
After compiling the responses, Mr. Murphy invites coaches to review their ratings with him. Mr. Murphy acknowledges that most kids “just circle all fives or all ones,” but believes that out of a team of twenty, “usually six or seven” responses contain valuable feedback that coaches learn from. Mr. Murphy said that Mr. Tahan also looks over the season’s surveys to check in on how coaches are doing and to see generally how the Department can improve.
Mr. Murphy points to numerous changes that the Athletic Department has made in response to the surveys. Although the school cannot satisfy all the students who call for better uniforms, he lists the changes to weight room hours, tweaks to practice times and lengths, and updated equipment that the Department has acquired over the past few years. He also assures middle schoolers that coaches remain responsive to complaints about playing time or positions (as a middle school soccer coach himself, Mr. Murphy understands there is no benefit in forcing a student to play only defense if he wants to try striker).
When he reads the surveys, Mr. Murphy most enjoys seeing what each kid wrote was their favorite part of the season. He says he loves seeing how many students each season mention the time they spent hanging out with their friends. “That’s what’s important,” Mr. Murphy says, “the lasting memories.”