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Moment with Mom: A Communication Resource for The Case for High School Activities

By Eileen Taylor, Ed.D., and Krista M. C. Cline, Ph.D. on May 13, 2020 hst Print

The first time a mother looks into her child’s eyes may be a moment of instantaneous bonding and commitment. That single moment may inspire an emotion within the mother to do just about anything to help her child. Nothing may stop her from exploring options to help her child succeed in life. Moreover, a mother may believe that no other person may give her child a more consistent, high-level commitment and support to succeed in life.

As a result, mothers are being considered as a communication advocate for The Case for High School Activities published by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The essence of leadership is communication at every level of any high school organization. When was the last time you spent a moment with a mom discussing outside classroom activities offered by high school that may benefit her child? Mothers spend a lot of time communicating with their children around the kitchen table, driving in the car, aside from other more formal discussions. Perhaps a mom’s conversation is the last word a child will hear before bedtime at the end of the day. Do you regularly share with mothers information about the values and benefits obtained through participation that would help them add value to those conversations?

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director, and B. Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports, sanctioning and student services, recently had a conversation with moms about The Case for High School Activities in the all new MOMentwithMOM podcast (momentwithmom.com). This is a new communication service intended for moms of high school students created through a partnership between the NFHS and Butler University of Indianapolis, Indiana. More episodes of interest to moms will be recorded and available in early fall 2020.

Content for the podcast was inspired by our research and with assistance from the NFHS Project Research Team. Qualitative data collected from a single open-ended research question resulted in 324 responses that are used as the framework for questions for the MOMentwithMOM podcast. The responses are called Reflections of Moms and are from their baseline research study of Indiana moms.

Expanded NFHS Project research is currently being designed in order to collect Reflection of Moms nationwide. We write the production script through our research and host the podcasts. Guests representing the NFHS first hear the Reflection of Moms, and then we talk with them about how their professional and personal experiences relate to stories and other results of the research.

The background of the Butler University associate researchers is interdisciplinary. In March 2018, we conducted a mixed method research study of 367 mothers of student-athletes within the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA). The results included quantitative data and 324 qualitative responses to the following single open-ended question: If you feel that having a student-athlete benefits your life, what are those benefits (please list them)?

High school sports are outside classroom activities, and many of the responses from moms appear to relate to competencies for career readiness identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). NACE research identifies competencies in terms of essential need in the following ranking order: Critical thinking/problem solving, professional/work ethic, teamwork, oral/ written communication, information technology application, leadership, and career management. Every high school graduate does not go to college, so students who participate in outside classroom activities offered by their high school may have the opportunity to gain competencies needed to go straight into the workforce.

We are currently using scientific qualitative software to analyze the 324 responses from mothers in order to discover any relationships between the arguments presented in The Case for High School Activities. They will separately analyze the same responses to discover any relationships to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) competencies of essential need.

Butler University received a grant from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to support a 10-year longitudinal research study which will run through May 31, 2029. The vision includes original research for The Case for High School Activities as an expansion of our Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) study. It will now include mothers from across the nation in all NFHS membership associations and all outside classroom activities offered by high schools, not just athletics.

Anticipated outcomes of this research include recognizing the existing silent organization of mothers of students and their perspective of the benefits of outside classroom activities offered by high schools as outlined in The Case for High School Activities. Future implications of the research study may include establishing direct communication channels with moms of high school students. This may result in expedited, timely, consistent and accurate messaging of information as delivered by the NFHS. The NFHS may become the provider of choice for students and their families to obtain credible information regarding outside classroom activities offered by high schools.

The ultimate objective of the 10-year study partnership between the NFHS and Butler University is to design original research and communication methods for The Case for High School Activities while building upon our original research of Leadership Communication and Psychological Effects of Mothers of Student-Athletes: Academic Eligibility, Role Strain, and Role Enhancement.

Research for The Case for High School Activities will be an expansion of our research and will include mutually beneficial survey questions approved by the NFHS. Research on mothers’ perspectives of their high school students provides an opportunity to (1) better understand moms of students, (2) introduce NFHS to moms, (3) build relationships between NFHS and moms, (4) educate moms about the benefits of their children participating in outside classroom activities offered by high schools, and (5) establish NFHS as the provider of choice for information about valuable participation benefits.

The benefits discussed in The Case for High School Activities and career readiness competencies identified by the NACE will be used to develop additional questions for the survey instrument (questionnaire) used in our original research.

The following are highlights of our original research discoveries about mothers of student-athletes: (a) 69% are employed full time outside the home, (b) 81% make spending decisions, (c) 25% spend $1,000-$1,999 and 21% spend over $5,000 on sports, (d) 75% feel they need help supporting their child’s participation in sports, and (e) 85% feel that having a student-athlete is a benefit in their lives. This is the audacity of responses from the existing silent organization of mothers. How can you use this and future research discoveries to make a moment with mom about the value and benefits of their child participating in outside classroom activities offered in high school?