Dublin High School Athletic Director Peter Scarpelli on Developing Student Athletes
Dublin High School recently announced the arrival of Peter Scarpelli to lead Dublin High athletics. Scarpelli joins from Amador Valley High School where he spent 15 years leading Amador’s successful Track and Field team. As head track coach (including six years as the cross country coach), Scarpelli led the program to East Bay Athletic League titles in 2012, 2013 and 2015, NCS Area Championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and NCS Championships in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Scarpelli graduated from Terra Linda High in 1986 and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Sacramento State University. OneDublin.org’s Mary Morehead recently caught up with Scarpelli to learn more about his approach to leading student athletes.
Mary Morehead: How did you get your start in education and coaching?
Peter Scarpelli: “I started my journey in education at Clayton Valley High School as an assistant track coach for the long and triple jumps specifically. I was in the business world at the time and when I started coaching I was already thinking of making a career change. I fell in love with working with kids in an athletic arena. My background in college was criminal justice and my career at the time was in printing and engraving, so it was a major change to become an educator.”
Morehead: Why are you passionate about athletics?
Scarpelli: “I believe athletics has so many far-reaching impacts in terms of life virtues that help you, and those around you, succeed. Athletics can help you inspire others. Athletics is a source of key life lessons including time management. It’s not easy balancing academics, sports, extracurricular activities, friends and everything else that comes up.
“I’ve found that most students, once they involve themselves in something such as athletics and have multiple things to do, are more efficient with their time.”
Morehead: Being a coach means investing a lot of time after school and on weekends. What is the ultimate reward for that investment?
Scarpelli: “Seeing the maturation of the athlete and hearing from them later on when they say ‘coach, I remember what you said at practice, and while I didn’t really appreciate it at the time now that I’m out in college or beyond it’s really helped me.’ Seeing lessons we’ve tried to instill coming to fruition is very rewarding.When an athlete out of the blue says ‘this really made me feel part of the school’ it’s all worth it.”
Morehead: What attracted you to the Dublin Unified School District and Dublin High School?
Scarpelli: “Coming from Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, where I was for 12 years teaching PE and coaching Cross Country and Track & Field, I’d always known of Dublin. I’ve seen Dublin’s community put forth an effort to invest in the District, even Dublin residents without children in the school system, and that’s resulted in a transformation of the facilities. I’ve also seen a District that thinks outside of the box, for example the introduction of the Gael period this year. The community support was intriguing as was the maturation of athletics as the school prepares to move into the EBAL (East Bay Athletic League).”
Morehead: What role should athletics play in a well-rounded high school experience?
Scarpelli: “Athletics creates a family for students. Athletics results in students meeting other students they may not have interacted with otherwise. Athletics bonds students through shared long days and the inevitable pain that comes with training. Athletics also helps students meet other students outside of the school, and opens up the high school experience beyond the classroom.”
Morehead: Today’s high school students are under enormous pressure to be accepted into college, it’s more competitive than ever; how can athletics help students achieve those goals?
Scarpelli: “I agree with you and it’s unfortunate. It makes me sad to see the pressures some students put on themselves at such a young age – there’s plenty of time in life for pressure. I think colleges now are looking for students that bring a well-rounded experience with them, not just a single dimension. Hopefully colleges are looking for that healthy individual that comes with book smarts and street smarts, whether it is band, theatre, athletics or other activities. Athletics also plays a role in showing that a student can be a team player.”
Morehead: How will you ensure that student athletes also have the time to be academically strong?
Scarpelli: “As coaches we need to discuss with our student athletes time management skills. There are only so many hours in the day. We need to look at creative ways, for example, for athletes to get their strength training done in an academic period – for example in a PE period – so that the coach doesn’t have to handle every aspect of the training. As Athletic Director I can help coaches and student athletes by taking some of the parts and pieces away from their hours after school, and not just do things one way because that’s what everyone else is doing.”
Morehead: How do you balance creating competitive teams with being inclusive? Can you have both?
Scarpelli: “I think you can definitely have both. As a coach and as an athletic department if you’re not creating a family feel and being inclusive then you won’t reach the same levels of success. You may have teams that are successful despite being dysfunctional, but we’re looking at success as much more than a banner and accolades, we’re looking at the teamwork, camaraderie, family feel, and sustained success. In cross country, for example, if you are willing to keep moving on that 3-mile course, whether you have a 5-minute mile or a 7-minute mile, you are covering the same hills as everybody else.
“You know programs that have the ‘it’ factor when they consistently perform year after year at a high level. If there are ebbs and flows, justified by ‘we had talented kids this year’ or ‘our kids weren’t as strong this year’, it’s indicative of a non-inclusive program.”
Morehead: If you could deliver just one message to Dublin High School’s coaching staff, what would that be?
Scarpelli: “I’m going to use the word ‘virtues’ because they matter. If we can get our student athletes to model themselves as good citizens then the other parts and pieces that we strive for will fall into place. Let’s create virtuous student athletes, and while that isn’t the only thing, it’s the guiding principle.
“In today’s world we have to train the whole athlete – we can no longer just think about ‘you run and then you go home’. We need to know what their sleep patterns are, because we’re learning so much more about the impact of sleep. We need to understand the role of nutrition. Hydration. Warm-up and cool down. Injury prevention. There’s so much more we know and understand now.
“If you think of a chariot being pulled by horses if any of those horses is out of sync, that chariot’s going to spin and crash. If we look at the horses and label them mental, emotional, physical and spiritual, then how do we continue to train each of those horses? How do we get into the psychological and mental side of the sport? How do we create a spiritual experience – in whatever form that resonates with the student. And emotional, which is a byproduct of the other horses. We need to teach the athlete how to control the horses on their chariot. There is too much information out there to ignore the psychological side of sports.”
Morehead: What advice do you have for parents to help ensure their children are sufficiently rested to perform well?
Scarpelli: “All of us – not just parents – need to be accepting of our student athletes. If student athletes are giving their best effort, and their best effort is a ‘B’ student or a ‘B’ athlete, then we have to learn to be happy with the effort, not necessarily the outcome. It’s important to understand the difference between pleasure and happiness – they are not synonyms. Pleasure can’t be sustained beyond the activity producing it whereas happiness can be sustained. If students find what makes them truly happy, then happiness is sustained, whereas pleasure is only in the moment. If you can find joy in the grind, homework or practice then the results will be more rewarding.”