What can athletes at Denair High School learn from Navy SEALs and Olympic athletes? Simple. That the dangers of drinking, drugs, vaping, lack of sleep and poor nutrition are real and their impacts on performance can be measured.
Student-athletes who want to reach their potential in any sport must commit to avoiding behavior that compromises their training, doesn’t live up to agreed-upon expectations and serves as a poor model for their peers.
That’s the thrust behind the Committed Coyote program, which was unveiled publicly Thursday night to the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees.
Eleven high school athletes dressed in purple or white T-shirts, plus some of their coaches and three officials from the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Agency, appeared before the board.
The back of each T-shirt sported the Committed Coyote creed, which also was shared aloud by the students in a video they produced:
“I am a Denair Coyote, I live to a higher standard than most, I am expected to be a role model for those around me. I exceed the higher standards that I am held to and show what our community is about. We are leaders and show integrity. We inspire the youth while aspiring to be great. We are more than a team, we are family, we work together, we strive together. We empower each other to success on and off the field, with tenacity and dedication, we motivate the people around us.”
The audience clapped at the end of the video.
Teacher Darrin Allen, the adviser to the group, said the 20 students currently in the program wrote the creed themselves. “This is from the kids,” he said.
Denair becomes the fourth Stanislaus County high school to adopt the program, joining Waterford, Hughson and Patterson. The program is available in all 50 states and mandatory at high schools in four of them – New York, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Illinois.
Denair senior Carlo Morales, one of three students to address the board Thursday, said the goal is “to change the culture of our school.”
The core students have been meeting each Wednesday with Allen and BHRS representatives (the county agency provides funding for the program). The group talks about the key topics – alcohol and drug use, vaping and tobacco use, and the importance of sleep and nutrition.
For instance, students told trustees, getting drunk one night can erase two weeks of training. The effects of smoking marijuana can last as long as 36 hours. Not getting at least eight hours of good sleep can lead to poor performance on the field and in the classroom.
The vision of bringing Committed Coyote to Denair goes back many years, Allen said. The district’s financial troubles prevented Denair from being the first district in the county to adopt the program in 2013, but Allen and others never lost the dream.
Last spring, he contacted BHRS about moving forward. By the second week of school in August, two former Nany SEALs were on campus, talking about the similarities in commitment to the high school program with what is expected of the elite military unit. The students in attendance were hand-picked by Denair’s coaches and teachers for their leadership potential.
In January, BHRS paid for 14 Denair students and seven teachers, coaches and counselors to attend a special session at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego. For three days, the students were exposed to videos, motivational talks and other information at a place where world-class athletes – including Olympians – often hone their skills.
What they heard underscored everything they had learned during their weekly sessions in Denair. They came back fired up to move forward.
The next step, explained Allen, is to write a code of conduct that each Committed Coyote and his or her parents will sign. Violations can lead to the athlete missing up to 30% of the season in any sport.
“The expectation is that this is 24/7, 365,” said Jennifer Marsh, the prevention coordinator for BHRS. “The leadership piece is just as important as drugs and alcohol.”
By the time the next school year begins in August, Committed Coyote should be ready to roll out to the rest of Denair High’s students.
“I am so happy you are representing us in Denair,” Superintendent Terry Metzger told the students.
In other action Thursday night, trustees:
- Heard a report about the food service programs at the elementary, middle school and high school campuses. Each day, the food service staff serves nearly 1,000 free breakfasts and lunches to students. The meals are paid for by the federal Community Eligibility Provision program, which Denair qualifies for because of the community’s socio-economics. Food Services Manager Kim Fuentes described the care and attention her staff puts into hand-producing a variety of tasty meals, from pizza to Italian, Mexican and Asian dishes to waffles and chicken and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. She said a state inspector who visited Denair High’s kitchen last month called the food “restaurant quality” and was so impressed that she ate lunch in a school cafeteria that day for only the third time in her career.
- Approved a motion to allow 13 Denair High FFA students, plus advisers Holli Nielsen and John Hultgren, to attend the State FFA Convention on April 23-26 in Anaheim.
- Voted 5-0 to adopt new social science/history curriculum at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.
Approved school safety plans for all four campuses created in conjunction with staff, community members, the Sheriff’s Department and the Fire Department. In the past year, fencing, gates and other safety barriers have been added in the district. Part of the new plan also includes additional scenario-based training for staff in the next year.