Always a Hawk: Student-Athletes Play with Pride

After a strong fall season for cross country (NYCAL champions), volleyball (8-1), and soccer (3-2-1), the winter sports season has begun. This year, the school will field a total of five basketball teams—two sixth grade teams (one for boys and one for girls); a seventh and eighth grade girls team; and for the first time, two teams for seventh and eighth grade boys. When a record number of boys tried out, the athletics department was eager to provide more opportunities to play and compete.

The upper school’s enthusiasm for team sports is not new, says Patti Lesser, Director of P.E. and Athletics. Starting in their early childhood movement classes, St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s students have the chance to build not only their athletic skills but also their capacity for teamwork, healthy competition, and sportsmanship.

“It starts with our coaches,” says Ms. Lesser. “They set a high standard, and our students rise to their expectations.”

Always a Hawk banner

During the fall, the department formalized a new motto: “Always a Hawk,” which reminds students that wherever they go—at home or away; on the court, field, track, or in the gym; at the playground or on the subway—they are representing their school and its values.

“Starting in the early childhood, we have three rules for movement and physical education: ‘Be kind, be fair, be safe,’” says Ms. Lesser. “‘Always a Hawk’ is an extension of that. It means doing your best every day. It means that when it’s time to represent your school in uniform, you know how to be a supportive teammate, to be coachable, to work hard, to balance academics, and to represent us with pride.”

Ms. Lesser says that this philosophy is rooted in the school’s mission. “We strive to stay true to our values. We know who we are as a school, and that translates to athletics.”

Head-to-head competition with athletes from other schools can challenge middle school students’ comportment on the field or court, admits Ms. Lesser. “But that’s one of the strengths of our program. Competition provides teachable moments for student-athletes to respond to adversity, and our coaches are gifted at guiding them through these challenges.”

The seventh and eighth grade basketball teams both won the NYCAL Championship last year and look to repeat the feat. “But we don’t define success only by wins and losses,” says Ms. Lesser. “How our students grow throughout a season, and how they represent themselves and St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s—that’s what we look for in our program.”