By Greg Klein
---- — Cooperstown Central School athletic director Monica Wolfe she said was taking a seminar in Atlanta when the idea hit her.
“I had been listening to some college coaches talking about their leadership programs and wondering how we could implement them for high school students,” she said. “That’s when it occurred to me that the athletic director (Jim Burton) at my old school, VVS, had his own leadership program specifically for athletes.”
From there, Wolfe and the Redskins’ coaches and administrators developed Cooperstown’s new “Leadership Training Program for Athletes,” a group made up of 40 Redskin student-athletes.
Coaches from every sport nominated the players they thought were team leaders or would benefit from the program. Athletes from 10th- to 12th-grade are included. All Cooperstown freshman, athletes or not, go through a similar program, known as “Habitude.”
“It is a nice little reward for all of our hard work,” said exchange student Noah Sims, who plays football and basketball. “It is an experience that not everyone gets in school.”
Christina Noto, a sophomore who plays soccer, basketball and softball, said she feels honored that her coaches would nominate her.
“It feels nice to know that a coach thinks highly of you,” she said, “and to have something specially guided to you as an athlete is very helpful.”
The program began in the fall as Wolfe took over as the CCS athletic director. The early meetings were at 7 a.m. once a week and focused on “individual units” such as self-esteem and goal setting.
“It was not only a group thing,” said junior Sarah Morosko, who plays soccer, basketball and track. “People were able to get special attention.”
Added Wolfe, “There was a lot of time for self-help and reflection, a lot of sharing. Now we are moving into community involvement.”
The end of fall has seen a shift in the program.
“We did a food drive at Thanksgiving,” Wolfe said. “It really drove the point home for them, because the first couple of days we had empty carts. I was the only one who had put something in the cart. By the end of the drive, we had filled up three carts.”
On Monday, the group visited Otsego Manor to sing carols. Noto took the lead, guiding her classmates around the halls and looking for Fran Niles, the mother of her basketball coach, Mike Niles.
“Hi, Mrs. Niles,” Noto said as they found her in a community cafeteria area. “Your son is my coach and teacher. We wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and sing you a song.”
After the songs ended, Noto pointed the group down the next hallway as another teammate sent their coach a text to tell him they had seen his mom. Wolfe beams in the background.
“Christina, she’s really taking the lead tonight, isn’t she? The great thing for me,” Wolfe added, “is being new here, this has been a great way for me to get to know the students.”
Wolfe said she has more projects planned for the group in 2013, and hopes to expand it out to other community services.
“I want everyone to know if they have service ideas or need help with a project to contact me,” she said. “We would love to help.”