The Life Lessons of Sports
Being both a history teacher and boys varsity soccer coach, it’s not surprising that John Chiavaroli draws parallels between what it takes to achieve success in the classroom and on the pitch. “I’m a firm believer that the only way a student is going to be successful at something is if they manage their own passions,” says the Darien, Connecticut, native, who played at Choate Rosemary Hall and Kenyon College. “To relate it to soccer, you are not going to become a good player if you just train during practice. You’ve got to find time to take ownership of your skills, your fitness, your nutrition. You’ve got to live it.”
That philosophy informed an ambitious project Mr. Chiavaroli completed last summer with support from a Williston professional development grant—he developed the new ninth grade course Humanities: History. “I wanted first-year students at Williston to feel confident about their abilities in history,” he explains. “I wanted them to develop a passion for it and hopefully inspire them.” Based on the Brown University curriculum known as The Choices Program, the course teaches essay writing and public speaking, but it also examines social issues such as climate change and media literacy. For the latter, Mr. Chiavaroli partnered with University of Massachusetts communications professor Allison Butler to develop the curriculum, which is capped by a project where students produce online newspapers written from various political viewpoints. The result, he says, is a course “with a distinct Williston feel.”
Now in his fifth year at Williston and the recipient of the Karin H. O’Neil Instructorship, Mr. Chiavaroli began his coaching and teaching career at King Low Heywood Thomas School, in Stamford, Connecticut. He coached and taught at Choate for five years before coming to Williston in 2015, in part to be closer to his now-wife, Kathryn. The couple live in Hatfield with their four-year-old son.
Over his career, Mr. Chiavaroli has taken advantage of professional development grants to further his coaching skills, but he acknowledges that he had a solid foundation in that area thanks to his father, Stefano, a fashion designer who split his time between the United States and Italy. “My father played soccer in Italy and passed on the passion to me,” explains Mr. Chiavaroli, who lived and trained in Pescara during summers and school breaks. “He helped guide me in my career as a player to value the most important things about the game—creativity, teamwork, sometimes sacrificing your best interests for the team.”
Mr. Chiavaroli notes that his father’s talents as a designer allowed him to rise from humble family roots to build a successful career in fashion (working with, among others, Yves Saint Laurent), and he sees boarding-school athletics offering similar opportunities—because it did for him. “My future is looking so much better because of what boarding schools have offered me,” he says.
To help others follow a similar path, Mr. Chiavaroli works with Futbol Goals, a summer program that introduces international students to educational and athletic opportunities in the United States. And in August, he brought the Williston soccer team to Alicante, Spain, to play and train with local teams, a trip that introduced Williston to a host of Spanish student-athletes who may be interested in furthering their education in the States. “Sport is a tremendous democratizer,” he says. “It offers people who don’t necessarily have the education or wealth the chance to change their family history.”