It’s 7:30 am on any given Thursday. Classes at Oyster River aren’t set to officially start for another forty-five minutes, and for the most part, the high school is quiet. However, the conference room behind the main office is anything but as the newly-formed Student Athlete Leadership Team is beginning its weekly meeting.
Created at the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year by ORHS’ new Athletic Director, Andrew Lathrop, the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) is made up of twelve student athletes spanning over three grades and eleven sports programs at the high school. The group’s goal is simple: to create stronger athletic-academic connections and student presence within athletic programs through recognizing the importance of leadership in the community.
“It gives [the students] some ownership, and it’s yet another opportunity for student athletes to grow as leaders, which is a big thing that comes out of the program,” said Lathrop.
Member Joe Morrell (‘20) agreed, adding, “I think it’s important to have this kind of program at our school to better build the bond between athletes and teams. It’s really helped me to personally see what different team’s and people’s views are on our school’s overall athletics [programs].”
It was this very mindset that originally inspired Lathrop, and before bringing the program to Oyster River, he had already started a similar initiative at Bishop Brady High School, where he was previously employed. “The students really bought into it there because it gave them some ownership of their athletic program… I’m hoping to see the same thing [at Oyster River],” he said.
So far, Lathrop feels the group is on the track towards duplicating this success, and the members have begun drafting several key changes to the athletic scenery at ORHS that they would like to see implemented throughout the remaining athletic seasons.
“One of the big projects that we’re currently working on for the winter season is a Super Fan system with points and prizes. We used to have Super Fans at Oyster River a long time ago, but I’m not really sure what happened. Since people seem to be really excited about it again though, we’re bringing it back, which is going to hopefully boost the spirit at all sporting events,” explained Maddy Alphonse (‘19).
Creating the new Super Fan program is just one of the group’s three current projects, which are all inter-managed through subcommittees.
“The subcommittees are different groups that divide SALT members into having various roles on a smaller scale. They allow us to get more tasks done by dividing up what we are able to do,” explained Morrell. Currently, SALT’s other subcommittees include writing and initiating a captain’s pledge program and creating an application process for future members.
Nick Ricciardi, who coaches both indoor and outdoor track, was especially excited about SALT’s initiative of creating a school-wide captain’s pledge. “I think it will help kids to better understand what it means to be a team leader… I don’t have captains on my teams anymore because, at a certain point, the perception of what a captain was and should have been doing for a team was very different from what it really is. It wasn’t conducive to a healthy team environment. But I think the SALT is going to teach kids how to be good captains and good leaders on their teams.”
As for the third subcommittee, Lathrop sees the final task of creating an application for the group as being equally important. “When I led the team at Bishop Brady, we had a large pool of students. There were a lot of kids that just signed up because they played sports, but then there were others that were really involved and wanted to advocate for change and ownership of their athletic program,” he said. “We need an application to make sure everyone wants to be equally involved.”
Ricciardi agreed, and when asked if being a member of a SALT would help students later in life, responded, “If the kids are in it for the right reasons, then yes. If they’re in it to pad their [résumés], then I would say no.”
As for the time being, the group seems to be nothing but involved for ‘the right reasons,’at least, according to Morrell. “Even though we’ve only been doing this for a short time, one of my favorite parts so far has been going to a conference in Pinkerton, where student athlete leaders from schools around the state were able to work together to talk about issues that they faced in their own athletic departments.”
Agreeing with Morrell was Abby Croot (‘18), the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association representative from Oyster River. The NHIAA representatives are student-athletes from high schools across the state that are elected by coaches and teachers on account of their outstanding leadership qualities and commitment to bettering athletics at their schools. Aside from attending the group’s bimonthly meetings, Croot noted how the position has helped her bring more leadership experience back to the school. “A lot of the conferences that the Oyster River SALT go to, I also participate in, just because of the NHIAA connection. But because I do have that connection, I’m also able to bring people from the group to new conferences, which is really cool.”
Alphonse is one of the many students who has benefitted from these conferences, and noted, “I’ve learned a lot from the conferences and seminars, even in simple things like realistic goal setting. After going to some of the conferences, we really got into planning the future of the SALT, which is to get really involved with charity and giving back to our community.”
In addition to creating group-wide goals, SALT members are also encouraged to make interpersonal goals. “Right now, my biggest goal is to really bring together all of the athletes at our school and make it into one big community. At the end of the day, even if we all play different sports, we all wear ‘Oyster River’ across our chests and I think that’s the biggest thing we focus on being members of SALT,” said Morrell.
Alphonse agreed, adding that, “Oyster River is made up of a lot of student athletes. I know almost everyone here does a sport, and if not, people are involved in drama or band. The SALT is really just about creating a good community for people at Oyster River to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Written by Devan McClain