Senior athletes at any high school often have a special kind of influence on campus, and Bruce Guillaume said he wants to focus that potential to make a positive impact on others.
“Here’s what I believe,” said Guillaume, who is starting a leadership program for high school athletes, “First and second year high school students tend to remember more who were the seniors when they were freshmen than they do who was in the class behind or in front of them,” he said. “ I think seniors can be really big deals. The senior class is always a big deal to someone.”
Guillaume, director of Mountain Challenge course at Maryville College, had a moment of insight earlier this year and approached William Blount High School athletic director Mike Brewer with an idea.
“The truth of the matter is it happened on a long run early one morning back in January,” Guillaume said.
Guillaume said his idea was if athletes develop leadership skills from being involved in sports, there should be a way to make sure athletes, particularly seniors, focus those skills and energies to make a positive impact.
“Let’s say there are 100 senior athletes at William Blount High School. Think what could happen if a group that size decided to have a positive impact at that school,” he said.
Because Guillaume’s daughter attends William Blount High School, he is on campus often, and so he pitched the idea of creating a Senior Athlete Leadership Academy to Brewer. “There was not any sort of deficit, nor was it an effort by Mike Brewer at William Blount or me to solve any particular problem,” he said.
Guillaume came up with the idea that the academy would be a one-day event at Maryville College. The athletes, picked by coaches from different sports at WBHS, would spend part of the day on the Mountain Challenge ropes course and the other half in class formulating goals for how they would orchestrate their efforts and make a positive impact on their school.
“We intend to end up with signed, written agreements they give to Mike Brewer,” Guillaume said.
Brewer said William Blount High School has great student athletes. “Given the opportunity, they can be great leaders as well,” Brewer said. “We want to develop a Student Athlete Leadership Team - SALT. Salt makes things a little better. We’re going to give kids an opportunity to showcase some of their leadership abilities.”
The athletic director said the coaches will choose senior athletes and each team at the school will be represented. “They’ll get seniors they feel have leadership capabilities. In July before their senior year begins, they will go over to Mountain Challenge and do activities and develop goals in three areas they will concentrate on for the following school year,” he said.
Brewer said the seniors will develop goals that will be their areas of concern, whether academic or whatever they choose. “They’ll have ownership and develop those areas they want to work on, be part of, lead in and have a positive influence in, whether it is going and visiting elementary school kids or doing something in the community. We want to showcase student-athletes who have leadership abilities, get them involved and out there,” he said.
Brewer said teams at the school with more athletes would probably have more representatives attend the academy, but the idea would be to get seniors from each of the boys and girls teams fielded at the school.
“That’s something I’m going to allow coaches a little flexibility based on the seniors on a team,” he said. “We’re still in planning phases of that as far as what would be a good number of athletes,” he said. “We want enough to where if we can send one group out to focus on one area of concern. It’s a neat program, and we’re excited about it. It has great potential and is a great opportunity for our kids to go out and make a difference.”
Guillaume said the first academy in July is in the planning stages. To prepare and get a taste of what their seniors will be doing, William Blount High School coaches took time recently to go through Mountain Challenge and also see what the students would do in class during the academy. “It will be affordable. I haven’t priced food for this academy in the summer but it is going to be a full, one-day thing,” Guillaume said.
Guillaume said he hopes that eventually students from all four high schools in Blount County will send students to participate in the Senior Athlete Leadership Academy.
“It would be really cool if all the senior athletes in Blount County are committed to having a positive impact in the same sorts of areas,” he said.