Waldorf Athletics: A Personal Perspective from Josh Allain, Assistant Athletics Director

I arrived at San Francisco Waldorf High School as the Head Baseball Coach in 2011, overjoyed by the opportunity and the positive school atmosphere. I had no idea that becoming a part of this beautiful community would change the course of my life forever and help to shape my philosophy towards athletics and child development as a whole.

Growing up as the son of a coach, I looked at athletics from multiple viewpoints. The discussions my father and I would have on our way home from practice and games centered around how to make sure every player felt like a part of the team instead of the final score. Sure, we would sometimes discuss the aspects of the game itself, but the focus would usually lie in the context of the experience each player was having and figuring out a way to make it more enjoyable for everyone. As I got older and began playing high school sports, I realized that this type of coaching was very uncommon and that most coaches had only one thing on their mind: to win.

Looking back, this was all preparation for the job of being a head coach at SF Waldorf. I came into the job bursting with excitement and determined to create an encouraging atmosphere where teamwork and togetherness were paramount. In my first season as coach I was amazed at the level of self-awareness and compassion that each player possessed. As I got to know the players on a deeper level I began to see and experience the power of Waldorf education through the lives of these high school boys. They had a knack for being in the present moment at all times and embodied the virtues of good sportsmanship at every turn. They were respectful and polite without losing any of their competitive spirit. It was the first time in my life that I had been around a team that gave everything they had to the game without sacrificing a shred of integrity.

In my first year as coach, the team made it all the way to the league championship. We were one strike away from winning the first league title in school history when our opponents mounted a comeback and went on to win the game in dramatic fashion. In our post-game meeting in the outfield grass, I reminded the team of how proud they should be of the effort that they put forth and that I could not imagine coaching a better group of guys.

To be honest, I thought they would take the loss a lot harder than they did. When I saw a handful of them 10 minutes later kicking around a soccer ball in the parking lot with smiles on their faces, I realized that the person who had learned the biggest lesson that day was me Through their ability to give 100% effort during the game and then separate how they felt about themselves from the result of the game, they showed me what healthy competition looks like. I will never forget the feeling I experienced that day and continue to use that moment to guide my players and my own coaching.

At the start of the 2012 school year I was hired as Assistant Athletic Director, overseeing the athletics program at the Grade School. Since beginning at the High School as the baseball coach, I had begun reading Rudolf Steiner and recognizing the universal truths in his writing on child development. I was excited to begin working more closely with the teachers and administration to help shape an approach to athletics that was aligned with the Waldorf pedagogy. The warmth and inclusion that was extended to me at the school far surpassed my expectations and as I began to dig deeper into Waldorf education I realized that there was a very clear synergy between the pedagogy and an approach to sports that focuses on development and self-discovery.

Now, as I near the end of my second year in this position I am happy to say that Grade School athletics are thriving. We have the most supportive and encouraging parent base in the city. All of our games are well attended and the positive energy that our community brings to the gyms and playing fields across the city is inspiring. We have been able to hire coaches who embody positive values that are aligned with our school. They celebrate the individuality of all our students and aim to create an atmosphere of cooperation and respect. They understand that they are role models for our students and take pride in carrying themselves with grace and integrity.

As we look forward to a new school year in the fall, we do so with great excitement and joy that the children at our school have the opportunity to both express and discover themselves through the experience of team sports. This positive experience is made possible because of the love and dedication of the teachers and administrators at the school, our dedicated coaches, and most importantly our supportive parents. For without you, none of this would be possible.
Go Waldorf!