Little Red sports are reaching beyond the playing field

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A captain of a sports team is a leader. A team chooses a captain for their dedication to the team, their commitment to the overall goal, and for their leadership abilities on the field and in the locker room. To the student-athletes at Ithaca High School, captains are more than just a leader on gameday, they are a leader outside of sports as well.


In 2017, Samantha Little, the athletic director at Ithaca High School, and her staff came together to create a platform that allowed coaches and captains to learn together and to share opinions and concerns. “We created the Captains Council last year as a way of creating student empowerment,” said Little. “We used last years ideas to create a program for this year that focuses on the issues that the students are facing off the field.”


The idea to focus the discussion and training on the modern high school lifestyle was designed as a way to teach captains and their coaches how to deal with the outside factors of their teams. “We used last years program as a way to find out what aspects of life in high school that needed to be focused on for this year,” said Little. “We looked at needs such as time management, nutrition, the stress that comes with high school, and dealing with friends who are turning to vaping and other outlets to cope with stress.”


After sorting through the needs of the students, the athletic staff saw an opportunity to involve the student-athletes and the coaches in training sessions that would cover each aspect of modern life for student-athletes.
At one Captains Councils, two graduate students from Ithaca College came to Ithaca High School to deliver lessons on coping with mental trials associated with student-athletes. Casey Williamson and Jaclyn Morgan were brought in as a way to coach the captains of each sports team through how to deal with mental pressures on both them and their friends and teammates. “Bringing in the mental performance coaches has been greatly beneficial for the students because it allows them a safe place to talk about issues that they are facing,” said Little. “It allows us to provide a place where they can talk about strategies and ways of dealing with the issues that they have brought up at the meetings.”


While the captains have received lessons on dealing with the ever-changing lifestyles around them and the stresses associated with them, Little and the rest of the athletic staff understand the need to take the pressure of helping others off of the students’ shoulders. “We have to remember that these students might be dealing with some of their own issues at times or may not fully understand other issues, so that is why we decided to also involve the coaching staffs,” she said. “We are working on having training for the coaches and meeting with the mental performance coaches.”


From the training of coaching staffs, Little and the Ithaca High School athletic staff have decided to work with the coaches to bring more than just the captains into the training programs. “We are asking our coaches to sign their teams up for time to come and meet with the mental performance coaches,” she said. “We want to design tailor-made programs for each team, whether that includes teambuilding exercises or ways to assist a teammate who has turned to drugs or alcohol.”


To date, Little believes that the programs held during Captains Council are successful in responding to the issues that are being voiced by the student-athletes. While success is currently coming to the program, Little says that there is no certainty as to what will be on the docket for next year’s Captains Council. “We don’t know what we will discuss next year, because we want to build our programs based on what our students feel is working and what is not,” she said. “We will still look to implement this year’s strategies, but with changing times come changing issues that need to be addressed.”


The Little Red is certainly working to combat issues that arise in the lives of student-athletes throughout the school in order to create better athletic and personal lives for the Ithaca youth.

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