MERCED — Athletes often become celebrities on a high school campus, but educators want to make sure those celebrated students are positive role models too.
That’s some of the reasoning behind the Pursuing Victory with Honor Program at Golden Valley High School in Merced.
“The goals of the program are to promote and celebrate good character as well as to foster leadership among our student athletes,” said Julie Rivard, associate principal for athletics and activities.
“The program is designed to build leadership among the athletes and to encourage coaches to promote the six pillars of Character Counts: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship,” she said.
Annette Brown, the Merced Union High School District coordinator of the Character Counts program, said Pursuing Victory With Honor is about building character and leadership, making them part of the school’s culture.
“It’s how we honor our students who excel in different programs,” Brown said. “If we acknowledge good character over and over, then the students will strive to have good character. We try to embed it in as many ways as we can. Students recognize their choices matter and affect others.”
Rivard explained that an integral part of Pursuing Victory with Honor is the Captain’s Club, consisting of in-season sports team captains. School leaders meet with the captains on the last Monday of each month.
Captains are given time to reflect on and discuss an inspirational video or quote in an effort to foster leadership. Captains have a chance to recognize a team member for exemplary character and are encouraged to devise a plan to promote the upcoming character pillar of the month.
“They decide on explicit actions they can take to promote behaviors consistent with the pillar. While the idea of a Captain’s Club is not unique to Golden Valley, our specific goals and meeting design make the meetings unique to our site,” Rivard said.
Thai Weatherby, a sophomore and junior varsity basketball player, said Pursuing Victory With Honor makes students and athletes want to do better for their school as well as their team, which results in positive gestures and attitudes.
“I like that we’re honoring people for the good things that they say or do,” Weatherby said. “The students who go out of their way to be the best they can be should be recognized for it.”
A Pursuing Victory With Honor pin was designed and is awarded to athletes of good character at the end of each season.
“These pins will be awarded to athletes who demonstrate good character on the field and in the classroom while maintaining their grades, good attendance and good behavior,” Rivard said.
She said the captains’ criteria for the pins include maintaining a positive attitude, being respectful of teammates, coaches and officials, and doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
Ben Fletcher, captain of the varsity boys basketball team, said they go back to their teams and talk to them about the character pillar of the month and focus at least one practice on that character trait.
“It’s been enlightening,” Fletcher said. “Because of all of the character pillars, I’ve noticed more positive attitudes on the teams and have heard more positive comments like ‘Good shot, good pass.’ ”
Jessica Lane, a junior and girl’s varsity basketball team captain, said Pursuing Victory With Honor has definitely brought a positive culture to the school and reminds athletes how important it is to show good character on and off the court.
“I like that the program honors students for their good attitude and character because they are not always shown appreciation for it, and this allows them to know that everything they do is very appreciated and I believe the program is a wonderful addition to the school.”
Rivard stressed that Pursuing Victory With Honor is all about making positive choices, not just making shots or scoring goals.
“These student leaders are now becoming the role models for student athletes and as leaders they understand how their positive behavior and encouragement can build up their team members,” she said.
Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.