Monday, September 24thmarked the first event of the year for the First Year Initiative (FYI) Program. 150-plus first-year student-athletes joined LEADS and a panel of Amherst head coaches and student-athlete captains in Stirn Auditorium. The first event of the year for the FYI program, also known as Welcome Night, is meant to bring the group of first-year student-athletes together and introduce them to the LEADS program and Amherst community.
The night kicked off with welcoming words from Amherst LEADS director, Coach Justin Serpone, who introduced the Amherst College Athletic Director Don Faulstick. Faulstick spoke about the impact that these student-athletes have on campus and the resources that both the athletic department and campus community can provide the first-year student-athletes with. Coach Serpone then spoke about the history of the LEADS program and the opportunities that LEADS present for those who fully participate in the program. He shared the value and uniqueness that LEADS brings to the student-athletes and emphasized the importance that leadership has for current and future ambitions.
Following the welcoming remarks, Coach Serpone moderated a question and answer session with a distinguished panel. Representing the head coaches were; softball coach, Jessica Johnson; men’s basketball coach, David Hixon; and men’s lacrosse coach, Jonathan Thompson. Joining the head coaches were two senior captains; Fikayo Ajayi (men’s soccer) and Debbie Newmark (field hockey).
Coach Serpone asked a variety of different questions of which the panel shared thoughtful and helpful responses. Questions were centered around examples of first-years who emerged as influential leaders, college experiences outside of Amherst Athletics, advice for the first-year athletes, and their philosophies as coaches or captains.
Because each of the coaches and captains have different backgrounds and histories they provided the first-years with diverse viewpoints and answers to these questions. For example, Newmark shared her involvement with Special Olympics; Coach Johnson spoke about the importance of connecting with others interpersonally rather than via technology; Ajayi highlighted the impact of time management as a student-athlete; and Coach Johnson reiterated the resources that the Amherst College community can provide for these first-year student-athletes.
We opened up the floor to questions from the first-year student-athletes to the panel. Although timid at first, the first-years warmed up and began to engage in the conversation asking intriguing and thought-provoking question.
To hear from veteran players and coaches has always been a great way to acclimate the first-year student-athletes and get them excited for their next four years at Amherst College. We are so excited to begin our work with theses student-athletes through mutual learning and strong relationships!