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Student Athletes in Woodland Public Schools are Students First 12/7-12/11/2015

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Jessica Flanagan, senior, (center - wearing "Seattle Pride" sweatshirt) stands with her teammates after signing a $216,000 scholarship to play softball for Seattle University
Jessica Flanagan, senior, (center - wearing "Seattle Pride" sweatshirt) stands with her teammates after signing a $216,000 scholarship to play softball for Seattle University 

Woodland Public Schools feature a wide range of athletic and extracurricular offerings for students in almost every grade level, however from the coaches to the students, student performance in the classroom takes priority over student performance as an athlete or club member.

Paul Huddleston, the district's Athletic Director, emphasizes the importance of academics throughout the district's entire program. "What impresses me about Woodland the most is how innovative Woodland is in academics," he said. "Woodland Public Schools truly makes academics and student learning a priority, and, as the district's Athletic Director, I truly appreciate that; we call them 'student athletes' for a reason."

In addition to athletics, Woodland Public Schools offer students a variety of extracurricular activities to stay involved out of regular school hours. "Woodland is truly about what's best for the overall student," said Huddleston. "We have a strong drama and music department, and our clubs regularly do amazing things; Woodland's schools simply are a great place for kids."

Huddleston started his career in education as a math teacher and coach, emphasizing the value of learning over the value of winning. "I believe the biggest challenge facing students, coaches, and parents involved in athletics is understanding the value of the journey," he said. "Winning the game should be a byproduct of playing the right way; if you do everything right and don't win, that's still a success in my book, and my mission is to get our student athletes, coaches and parents to buy in on the concept that the effort is as important as winning, if not more so."

Huddleston holds great pride for Woodland Public Schools, particularly when students work to overcome adversity. "I want to see our teams and clubs play hard regardless of the situation, and our students do that with a high level of character and class – it's the Woodland Way," he said. "We're always going to outwork our competition and look sharp doing so; all of our students stick together and perform as teams regardless of the sport, club or activity."

Top priorities for student athletes at Woodland include being excellent role models for their classmates and to positively affect student culture in their school. Students who hold a letter in a sport belong to the "W Club" which focuses on promoting school programs and driving up attendance at both games and other extracurricular school activities.

Paul Huddleston, Athletic Director (left), spoke about the importance of being the "whole athlete" at Jessica Flanagan's (right) signing party where she signed to play softball for Seattle University
Paul Huddleston, Athletic Director (left), spoke about the importance of being the "whole athlete" at Jessica Flanagan's (right) signing party where she signed to play softball for Seattle University

Jessica Flanagan, a multi-sport athlete, signed a four-year scholarship to play softball for Seattle University. At the signing party on November 12, Huddleston emphasized the fact that Flanagan's scholarship included both athletic and academic awards. Flanagan's scholarship includes $32,400 a year for her athletic contributions and $15,000 a year for her academic achievements totaling $54,000 a year for four years and a grand total of $216,000. "This kind of achievement demonstrates that success is about being a 'student athlete,' not just an athlete," Huddleston said as he spoke to the gathered audience which included Flanagan's family, friends, and classmates. "This kind of scholarship shows that our students must perform both academically as well as athletically in order to receive awards."

Jody Flanagan (right) and Glen Flanagan (left) attended their daughter, Jessica's (center), scholarship signing party
Jody Flanagan (right) and Glen Flanagan (left) attended their daughter, Jessica's (center), scholarship signing party

In addition to softball, Flanagan also plays soccer, basketball and runs on the cross-country team, however softball has always been Flanagan's favorite sport. "I love how intense softball can be; being at-bat where it's you against the pitcher is something you don't get in any other sport," she said.

Flanagan's not nervous at all about graduating from high school and heading to Seattle University. "The campus is gorgeous and the coaches are awesome so I'm super-excited," she said. "I'll definitely miss my friends from Woodland since I'm a Woodland native, but I'm really excited about going to college."

For Huddleston, being an excellent student athlete will always be about being an excellent student first. "I want parents to know that the best way to get your kid recruited to a full ride in college is through academics," he said. "It's about being the 'whole athlete' which means having excellent character, receiving excellent grades in your classes and giving an excellent performance as an athlete."