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Jere Quinn's 'boss' (his son, Matt) upholding T-More's excellence

Montville — A more cynical chap might absorb St. Thomas More's pastoral setting and conclude that the school deftly marries academics and athletics because, well, what other entertainment options present themselves in the woods of Oakdale?

We know better, of course. It has long since been accepted here in our corner of the world that few, if any, other institutions on the planet are better at true college preparatory work than what transpires at 45 Cottage Road.

No small feat then that T-More has become a better rendition of itself this year, even in a pandemic. Head of School Matt Quinn and his staff have devised a number of academic courses tethered to athletics, giving more aspects of the college sports experience (minus perhaps the parties) a year early to T-More students.

They are called "Exercise Sciences," an augmentation to the regular academic day. There's still no shortage of English and math. Except that rhythms of the day include sport-specific skill development classes as well as balance and flexibility, speed and agility and strength and conditioning. Students are graded on punctuality, attitude, effort, and growth.

"We saw an increase, not only among students, but parental interest as well about what kinds of things we might be able to do beyond the typical college prep thing," Quinn said earlier this week.

"Last year, we had one exercise science class, mainly strength and conditioning. As a former college athlete (he played basketball at Div. I Bucknell), one of the biggest adjustments for me in college was the transition between going to class, having a midday workout, eating lunch and then going back to class. We thought it would be a great avenue to prepare students who have aspirations of being athletes at the college level."

Quinn said the kids get to burn off some energy, which helps with better classroom focus.

"We see the kids more attentive in class," he said. "The classes are something they look forward to. And the kids who want to focus on one sport can work on their bodies and be preventative toward injury."

Ingenuity has become an appendage for Quinn, who was named T-More's Head of School in 2018. He learned resourcefulness in his 20s on the other side of the world involved with "Playing For Peace," an organization that blended basketball and life skills programs with social modeling, conflict resolution and public diplomacy to unite children of different religions, cultures and races.

Quinn has taught basketball in Cyprus to the Greeks and the Turks, to the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland and to the Palestinians and Israelis as the Program Director in the Middle East. The premise: children who play together can learn to live together. (Kind of thinking we need to adopt that here, too.)

"The three years I spent internationally were some of the most impactful years of my life," Quinn said. "It really opened my eyes to living in a different culture and seeing conflicts that existed in different parts of the world. Seeing that first hand — and how countries tried to get through those conflicts — was fascinating to me. Now that I'm head of a school that enrolls international students, I can relate to some of the challenges and roller coasters they go through being a full-time part of another culture."

Quinn, of course, also has the most famous surname on the T-More campus. His dad, Jere, is not only the best basketball coach of them all, but generally considered an institution.

"Technically," Matt said with a hint of glee in his voice, "I'm my father's boss."

Then Matt said, "Luckily, he's a guy as we all know has overachieved at his job. As someone told me, the best way you boss your family around is with gentle suggestions."

Anyone who has watched Jere Quinn coach just giggled at the idea of him offering "gentle suggestions" to his players. Mount Quinn often erupts more faithfully than Vesuvius.

"But you should see him give an admissions tour," Matt said. "People think he's the most gentle person they ever met."

Admission tours are likely to become more crowded now with Matt Quinn as head of school. No better place to study and play.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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