Sunday November 12, 2017 was a busy day for Amherst LEADS with the First-Year Initiative Program and Futures wrapping up the first semester.
To start the day, the First-Year Initiative program took part in the annual “Changing What’s Cool” event in O’Conner Commons. The goal of “Changing What’s Cool Event” is to provide a space for the First-Year student-athletes to think about and discuss among their classmates how they can positively affect the Amherst College community during the course of their Amherst College Career. We opened up the event with EJ Mills, Head Coach of the Football program here at Amherst College. Coach Mills reminded the first-years that their actions effect and impact more than just themselves. Their actions are a reflection of their prior influences and they have an impact on their classmates, teammates, and peers.
After Coach Mills got all of the first-year student-athletes thinking about what “they do” and what “they don’t do” they fueled themselves with treats from Insomnia Cookies and Maple Valley Creamery and filled out their Class of 2021 “Changing What’s Cool” Banner. This banner will hang in the halls of the Alumni Gym Building for the remainder of their four years at Amherst College, as a reminder to themselves and each other about how they are going to make a positive impact and represent the college while they are here.
Following the banner activity, the first-years moved across the street to Stirn Auditorium. Their guest speaker for the second half of the event was Schuyler Bailar, the “first openly trans athlete to compete on an NCAA Division 1 Men’s team” –CBS News. Schuyler spoke openly about his journey as he transitioned, including his story with being recruited and accepted into school as a female and then ultimately making the decision to transition and compete as a male. He provided educational information and insight for the first-years, shedding light into the LGBT community and hosted a great question and answer session, which had to be cut short because we ran out of time for the event.
The event was an overall success for the first-years and had two goals, which were met. The first goal was to take an opportunity to brainstorm as the Class of 2021 at Amherst College how they want to be perceived for their four years on campus. The second goal was to provide the first-years with an opportunity to learn about the journey, insights, and perspectives from a fellow student-athlete.
The Futures program kicked off their Amherst LEADS programming at 6:00pm at the Central Rock Gym in Hadley. One of the goals of the Amherst LEADS program is to provide an opportunity for each group within the program to go off-campus. Last year the Futures program went to Morse Hill. Building off the same idea of working on communicating, trusting, and team building with individuals not on their respective teams, the Futures group had a great time at the Central Rock Gym. By a show of hands when we arrive, only one of the student-athletes in attendance had been to the gym before.
The event started with getting fitted for harnesses and a quick safety briefing. From there the student-athletes were broken into four groups, which would be utilized later in the evening. The first 30-minutes of the evening consisted of climbing. The Central Rock gym provided a large number of staff members to do all the belaying, and the student-athletes had the chance to try multiple climbs of varying difficulty levels.
Following the climbing session, they were divided into their four groups, and rotated through four different stations, with 30-minutes at each station. The four stations were blindfold climbing, rope swing challenge, bouldering, and an obstacle course. The blindfolded climbing was a great communication challenge for them. They were paired up, and one person was climbing and their partner on the ground was giving them verbal cues to help them navigate themselves up the rock wall. The rope swing challenge contested the team to work together to cross a “hazardous” terrain and safely get their entire team to the other side. If this take proved to be too easy, some of the group members became blind folded and they had to complete the task again. Bouldering is a shorter wall to climb, with no harness. As much as this was an individual challenge of strength and grip, there was still a level of communication and help from your peers to be successful. The final station, the obstacle course, was a combination of various obstacles they had to maneuver themselves though to test their speed and agility.
Overall everyone had a great time. The day challenged their communication, teambuilding, and also their grip. One student-athlete at the event said she didn’t know how well she was going to do at rock climbing, but she ended up having a great time. The last time Amherst LEADS came to the Central Rock Gym was in 2015 with the Assistant Coaches for a development day. The Central Rock Gym once again, proved to be a great addition to the Amherst LEADS programming.
The two events mark the third and final events of the semester for the two programs. Up next Amherst LEADS is hosting an event with all senior student-athletes and the Captains program.