Tacony Academy Charter School is No. 1.

Not in the City of Philadelphia.

Not in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In the country.

The Philadelphia Public League school at the foot of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge in the Northeast section of the city in late May became the first high school in the nation to earn Level 2 status in the Schools Honor Roll program. The program was recently initiated by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

“Our coaches just embraced this,” Tacony athletic director Paul Rieser said. “We all believed that the better we can be as coaches, the better we can be as athletic directors, the better our kids will be.”

The Schools Honor Roll is designed to promote professional development for high school coaches by completing online education courses through the NFHS Learning Center. Most of the courses are free. The fee for those that charge is being paid by the school district, Philadelphia Public League president James Lynch said.

In earning Level 2 status, more than 90 percent of the coaches at Tacony Academy completed sports-specific courses, along with courses that focus on first aid and safety, heat-illness prevention, and mental-health and suicide prevention.

Tacony has 13 varsity coaches, Rieser said.

Athletic director Paul Rieser of Tacony Academy Charter helped the school become the first in the nation to achieve National Federation of High Schools Honor Roll Level 2, as more than 90 percent of the staff completed coaching education classes online through the NFHS program.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Athletic director Paul Rieser of Tacony Academy Charter helped the school become the first in the nation to achieve National Federation of High Schools Honor Roll Level 2, as more than 90 percent of the staff completed coaching education classes online through the NFHS program.

“We congratulate the coaches and administration at Tacony Academy Charter School in becoming the first high school in the nation to complete the necessary courses to earn Level 2 status in the School Honor Roll,” NFHS executive director Karissa Niehoff said in a statement. “This is a tremendous accomplishment and a strong indication of the school’s commitment to professional development for its coaches."

Another Philadelphia Public League school, the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, became the first school in the state to achieve Level 1 status.

Benjamin Rush athletic director Todd Corabi said coaches at the Northeast Philadelphia-based school, which offers 10 varsity sports, appreciate the value of the courses.

“You can never learn too much,” Corabi said. “With these courses, you learn so much more than just the old strategy of how to teach the sport or win a game.”

Lynch said the push for online training by athletic administrators and coaches stems from the launch of the Philadelphia Public League’s Sport Leadership Institute last summer, which works in conjunction with the Honor Roll program initiative. He said the Public League also has launched a program to provide coaches the means to acquire interscholastic coach certifications through the NFHS.

“There’s so much more involved with coaching now as far as dealing with the athletes, engaging with parents, dealing with students’ mental health,” Lynch said. “We want to constantly be educating our coaches, giving them tools to better serve the students. That’s what we’re all here to do.”

The NFHS said Tacony Academy Charter School will receive a banner for its gym to “commemorate the school’s accomplishments and dedication to professional development and education-based activity programs.”

Schools can earn Level 1 status when more than 90 percent of their coaches complete the core course, Fundamentals of Coaching, along with three of the Learning Center’s broad-based courses: concussions, sudden cardiac arrest, and protecting students from abuse.

A Level 3 banner will be awarded for schools that reach more than 90 percent completion for courses in sportsmanship; strength and conditioning; teaching and modeling behavior; engaging effectively with parents; and bullying, hazing, and inappropriate behaviors.

Rieser and Corabi said they are determined to see their schools achieve Level 3 status.

“These courses are reworked every year," Corabi said. “They are up-to-date and filled with strategies, tools and ideas that these coaches can use right away.”