Department of Physical Education and Athletics update

April 7, 2021
Jason Baseden

A lifelong student-athlete, Director of Physical Education and Athletics Jason Baseden earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University while leading the track and field team as a two-time captain. He holds a master’s degreein athletic administration and was the director of athletics at The Peddie School, as well as the International School of Brussels. Prior to that, he was the head coach of basketball, track and field, and strength and conditioning at the American School of Paris. He was named Exeter’s director of physical education and athletics in 2020.

“Educational athletics” — the idea that sports teach young people values and skills that prepare them to lead purposeful lives — isn’t just a buzz phrase to Baseden, it’s the backbone of his vision for Exeter’s Department of Physical Education and Athletics. “Obviously we have world-class academics here, but I find that you can have the smartest people in the world, but if they don’t have grit, life skills and social skills to put that academic knowledge to use, then they fall short of their potential. We use sport as a vehicle to teach those skills.”

More than 800 students, nearly 70% of the student body, participate on an athletic team each year. That participation, Baseden says, offers opportunities for leadership, teamwork, decision making, perseverance, integrity, sacrifice and overcoming adversity. In an effort to provide more students with the transformative experience of competition, Baseden is looking to develop a “thirds” program, an alternative to club-level sport participation for those athletes who have a passion, but don’t make the junior varsity or varsity roster.

I find that you can have the smartest people in the world, but if they don’t have grit, life skills and social skills to put that academic knowledge to use, then they fall short of their potential."
Jason Baseden

He also has ideas to bolster the athletic program with new initiatives related to exercise science. “Adding a human performance lab, for example,” he says, “would allow our students the full complement of tools to have a deeper understanding of their own fitness levels and others ... It may also inspire some into the field of medicine.”

Plus, this focus on kinesiology, biomechanics, physiology, sports medicine, and sports nutrition would give athletes and non-athletes alike another way to engage with the department. “There are opportunities for cohesive collaboration between the Health Department, our department and the Science Department, even the Math Department, through statistics,” he says. “Right now, we’re on an island, so I’m trying to bring that island back to the mainland and be able to reach out.”

Students compete in a track race

Department quick takes

Students pursue their passions

Exonians not only pursue their athletic passions here, they discover them. “I often think about crew as a program where most of the students arrive having never rowed in their life,” Baseden says, mentioning crew captain Addie Luce ’21, who is headed off to row for a Division I school after graduation. “Addie is a great success story,” says crew coach Sally Morris, “because she got there by hard work and discipline, heading to the weight room before school, erging in the afternoon, running on the weekends.”

Diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives

“Sport is a tool that brings people together through a common passion like nothing else,” Baseden says. “I really want our program to have more of a sports social justice impact.” This fall and winter, many coaches and teams took time to do diversity, equity and inclusion work during their practices. “There’s nothing more powerful in education than an academic teacher who gets to teach students outside of their classroom,” he says. “We have coaches and physical education teachers who are also great culture builders and leaders."

On-the-gound experiences

Facilities like the 85,000-square-foot William Boyce Thompson Field House and The David E. and Stacey L. Goel Center for Theater and Dance offer world-class environments to teach and compete. “For our students to be able to have these opportunities in these environments, it speaks to who we are and our world-standing in education,” Baseden says. “These facilities allow us to have multiple programs educating simultaneously and have the highest standard of safety.”

New voices on campus

Baseden is actively seeking guest speakers like Erin McDermott, the first female athletic director at Harvard, to enhance the program. “I’m inviting athletes who have been able to use their voices to impact society in ways beyond their sport,” he says. He is also considering adding a rotating exhibit space within the athletic buildings to highlight athletes and their stories. “This goes back to using sport as an educational tool, but through art, exhibits and through voice.”