No rivalries here
Rivals on the football field became partners on the ropes during a recent weekend conference at Appalachian State University.
Members of the East and Chase High School football teams attended an ASULead Rutherford conference at ASU June 17-19 to learn about leadership and teamwork. The conference was part of the McNair Educational Foundation's SCORE (student-athletes creating opportunities to reach excellence) program.
"Appalachian actually created this for us. They have done this conference before but never for just football players. The first thing we did was a high ropes course where we paired an East football player with a Chase football player, so immediately they had to drop everything about county rivals and trust that person," said Sarah McKinney, McNair program director. "Football runs deep in Rutherford County. It was pretty cool to watch that transition take place."
Along with completing the high-ropes course, the athletes also went kayaking, took classes on leadership and got the college experience by staying in the dorms and eating at one of the cafeterias.
"This was an opportunity to get in and learn more about college. They got to go into a classroom, learned about what it takes to get into college as far as the financial aid and SAT part and learned about the minimal requirements and everything involved with that," said Doug Hollars, McNair program director. "They were really taught to get out of their comfort zone."
The head coaches of the football teams worked with the McNair program directors to determine which players would attend the conference. Hollars said they selected rising juniors and seniors who they believed would be leaders on the teams this season. They are expected to take what they learned from this experience and share it with their teammates.
"One thing I'm sure they gained from this was communication. When we got on the high ropes course the communication they had to have with one another, that's definitely something they're going to carry back to their team," Hollars said. "When they first got on the course they were nervous. But the more they did it, just like leadership, it becomes natural."
Along with the leadership classes, the players had an opportunity to tour the athletic facilities at the university and meet with members of the ASU football team who talked about the requirements of being a student athlete at the college level.
"What I got out of it was time management," said Tyrell Boykins from Chase. "Being an athlete and a student, most of the time you might be on the field. You've got to manage your time and get your work done to be able to go out there and be eligible to even play."
"They talked about the recruitment process and how they went from playing high school ball to being looked at to signing with Appalachian," said Austin Hollifield from East. "They talked about stuff you can do that will help you get to the next level."
One of the ASU team members also spoke about being red-shirted his freshman year.
"He took it as a time to get better at what he was doing. Instead of sitting there and waiting for his chance, he took it as a time to work on it," said Stephen Phillips from Chase.
McKinney and Hollars believe that the players really benefited from attending the conference and are hoping to take another group next summer.
"I enjoyed the time being there especially with my teammates, but East too. We bonded together," Boykins said. "It was teamwork because everything we did do, it wasn't just East or Chase, it was East and Chase together."