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Winning on the court—
and in the classroom

Pat Mangan  

An English teacher by profession, a basketball coach by choice, Pat Mangan is a fixture at Frederick Douglass Academy, where he encourages his students to score on the basketball court—and in the classroom. "When you come here, we expect you to go to college," says Mangan, a member of the United Federation of Teachers.

The school, located in the heart of Harlem in New York City, recently won a national Schott Foundation award for its high graduation rates for African-American students. In 2011, every senior on the boy’s basketball team won letters of acceptance to four-year colleges and universities.

The basketball program is “the sparkplug to get them going, to make them become the independent students they need to be in college.”

Andre Hampton, a student at Frederick Douglass, says that he and other teammates see the important connections their coach is making between athletics, responsibility and success in life. On Mangan’s team, “you set priorities, communicate and manage your time,” the sophomore explains. “We work on communication daily.” For example, players tell the coach before a scheduled practice if they have a conflict or are going to be late.

In 2003, Mangan began requiring that every basketball player maintain an 80 average to play on the school team. There are mandatory study halls in the fall before the season begins and tutoring sessions in the spring. The school uses the last six report cards to determine a student’s team eligibility, a much higher threshold than many other schools. The coach also requires the same sense of commitment from parents when it comes to their children’s academic performance.

It’s a climate of high academic expectations for student athletes—one that the entire school community stands behind. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the coach to make great players ride the pine if their grades aren’t up to snuff. “We are all about winning opportunities for our student-athletes” that extend well beyond the court, Mangan says.