From The Andover Townsman - January 7, 2010
The Warrior Way: High-schoolers visit younger kids to teach sportsmanship
By Bethany Bray
In the eyes of elementary students, what could be cooler than a teenager, especially the star of their favorite high school sports team?
A new program in the public schools uses that connection for good - sending Andover High School athletes to elementary physical education classes to mentor Andover fifth-graders and encourage good sportsmanship.
"They don't realize it, but they are huge role models for younger students in town. Every move they make on the field, there are kids watching," said Andover High physical education teacher Carol Martini. "We wanted our athletes to have the opportunity to meet with elementary kids and talk about what it means to be a teammate, and have good sportsmanship. (They're) delivering the message of how you should try your hardest, all the time, no matter what you're doing - whether it's in the classroom, at music lessons or on the athletic field. There's no one better to deliver that message than high school athletes."
"The Warrior Way" program, which takes its name from the high school sports team nickname the Golden Warriors, began this month, as groups of high school athletes visited fifth-grade physical education classes at all of Andover's elementary schools.
The program was the brainchild of Martini and AHS senior Christian Lightner, who plays varsity football and baseball.
The 50 high-schoolers in the program were nominated by their coaches for not only athletic prowess but also top academics and strength of character, said Martini.
Martini said she knew the 50 teens were committed when they came to a 7 a.m. meeting Lightner organized, getting out of bed an extra 45 minutes before school.
While visiting fifth-graders last month, the high school students participated with the younger students in their physical education classes and finished the visits with question-and-answer sessions.
"They modeled what we hope is great physical education behavior, complimenting the other kids, (saying) 'nice shot', shaking hands, being very positive and helping kids that were struggling, to make them feel a part of things," said Martini.
"There's a little reverse psychology here, too, with the AHS student-athletes realizing what an impact they have on the elementary kids," she said.
The program has received positive feedback, said Martini, and the fifth-graders warmed to their high school visitors quickly. They peppered the high schoolers with questions, asking what it was like to try out for a team and train during practices.
One youngster asked the cross-country team captain if he had really run across the whole country, said Martini with a chuckle.
Through the next year, Martini said she hopes to expand the Warrior Way program into more elementary school grade levels, as well as Andover's middle schools. Eventually, the Warrior Way could include recess and lunch times as well as physical education classes, she said.
"We have a philosophy that kids have to enjoy what they're doing (to be physically active). We put a great deal of emphasis on the pleasure, fun and joy of participation," said Martini. "We want everyone to graduate from here with a love of participation, and I feel we do a really good job with that."
The Warrior Way