Jim Flack recently achieved a major milestone with his 600th win in 23 years as coach of the Bruins Men’s Basketball team. For someone who has been named OCAA Coach of the year nine times while leading the Bruins to seven provincial championships , you would think that winning is everything to him. But you’d be wrong.
Study. Compete. Graduate. Succeed. This is the Sheridan Way as conceived by Flack, who also serves as Sheridan’s Athletics Director, and it’s a philosophy that guides the entire varsity sports program at Sheridan. “Study is first and foremost,” he says. “Sports may be a large part of the varsity athlete’s experience at Sheridan, but if it’s the sole focus they’re setting themselves up for failure now and in the future.”
“Compete – no one is saying you have to win championships, but you have to try your best,” he says. And when it comes to graduating, “it has nothing to do with sports, but it lays the foundation for your future success.”
Flack acknowledges that there is a commonly held belief that when it comes to varsity athletes, academic achievement tends to take second place to performance on the field or the court. “People have said to me that you can’t have both, and I don’t accept that. If you can’t get both, it better not be because you didn’t try.”
Under his leadership, Sheridan has instituted a student-athlete advisor whose job it is to track athletes and ensure they’re not falling behind in their programs. If a red flag is raised, then tutoring and other supports are brought into play.
At the same time, he sees his role as coach to be aligned with that of educator. “We’re with them for 16 – 24 hours a week, whereas a professor might see them for three hours. I truly believe the basketball court or the field is also a classroom.”
And the lessons learned there can help set them up for future success, he says. “You’re going to run into difficult situations at work, where you don’t have time to mess around but need to get your act together to resolve issues. It’s the same in sport. Life isn’t easy, but our players have the chance to learn some important lessons here while doing something they enjoy.”
Flack’s commitment to the Sheridan Way has been tested this year by a less than stellar season for the Bruins, who failed to make the post-season for the first time in his tenure. “We really struggled this year, and I’ve never struggled in my career. But the message hasn’t changed. If I made it about winning all the time, then I might be despondent.” But it’s clear that Flack is focused on a bigger prize: “We’re working towards a sustainable model of athletic and academic excellence. We’re not just interested in winning championships. I won’t be satisfied unless all our players graduate.”