Falmouth student-athletes to get ‘true leadership’ advice

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FALMOUTH — The assumption that teaching students to become thoughtful, ethical and inclusive leaders is vital to their future and ours is why the Athletic Department at Falmouth High School has developed the new Casco Bay Leadership Institute, aimed at student-athletes.

“It’s a really important time to develop leaders for the future and it’s critical for the next generation to have a grounding in ethics and values,” John Fitzsimmons, the longtime head football coach, said.

Fitzsimmons and Athletic Director James Coffey are co-organizers of the institute and will be welcoming 50 student-athletes Sept. 15 and 22 to workshops and guest speakers. The leadership institute will conclude with some type of service learning project.

If the institute is successful, Coffey and Fitzsimmons said they hope to expand it into a schoolwide program, perhaps even one day seeing it offered as part of the curriculum.

The goal of the institute, Coffey said, is to not only help the students become effective leaders, but to “help the kids find their own voice.” The institute will also introduce the students to “some really accomplished people.”

Fitzsimmons chose the guest speakers and presenters, and said every one of them is “someone I personally admire. They’re really great human beings. When I called on my old friends they were all willing and said yes with no hesitation.”

Among the guest speakers are former Maine Gov. John McKernan; Leigh Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and Dr. Jenny Thompson, a former Olympic swimmer who is one of the most decorated Olympic athletes in history with 12 medals, eight of them gold.

Brady Douglas, a junior and three-sport athlete at Falmouth High, said he applied to the leadership institute because it seemed like a great opportunity “to learn from some highly accomplished individuals and leaders in the community.”

“I am (so) grateful that we are being given the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and do something unique,” he added. “I am looking forward to seeing what I learn about myself as a leader (and) I am interested to see what types of activities we will be taking part in that will teach us about true leadership.”

Douglas said the creation of the leadership institute also shows “just how much Mr. Coffey and Coach Fitzsimmons care about us as student-athletes and as people in general.” He plays football, basketball and baseball for Falmouth.

Gabi Esmond, another student-athlete, said she saw the upcoming institute as a way to “develop strong leadership skills, which will help me in sports, as well as my everyday life.”

Esmond, who plays soccer and lacrosse, said what she’s most looking forward to is “gaining new leadership skills, as well as new views on leadership from the many (different) speakers.” Esmond also sees this as a chance to learn from her peers.

Coffey said every student who applied to the leadership institute was accepted for the program, which is being funded by a $9,500 grant from Key Bank. What he’s hoping is that the program will become a “real part of the culture here at Falmouth High.”

“I’m just excited to see how it all pans out and sitting in on the speakers myself,” he said. Fitzsimmons agreed, saying, “I can’t wait. I wouldn’t miss a minute of it and I’m excited to see all the good works that will follow.”

In a presentation to the School Board last spring, Coffey provided an overview of the leadership institute and how it would work.

He said students who complete the program would “learn the key attributes and skills of effective leaders, become better aware of their own leadership style and how it translates into working with others and understand the importance of leading in an ethical manner.”

The overall hope for the program, Coffey told the School Board, is to “teach and foster leadership development, and to (help students) realize their own potential to effect positive change.”

“FHS sports teams will be enriched by increasing the ranks of talented individuals who are ready to lead, have a positive impact on their teams and be contributors to their school and community,” he said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

This fall the Athletic Department at Falmouth High School will offer a new leadership institute to 50 student athletes.

Brady Douglas, a junior and three-sport athlete at Falmouth High School, said he is excited to be part of a new leadership institute being offered this fall to student-athletes. He said he likes the idea of getting “out of our comfort zone and (doing) something unique.”