For some students, summer means sleeping in until noon and watching movies all day, but this is not the case for student athletes. Just because these students aren’t in their official season yet, doesn’t mean they stop practicing.
The Cross Country team is coached by Mr. Perry Heinold, who is also the elementary physical education teacher. During the summer, he and his team practice three mornings a week starting at 6:30 in the morning. During the school year, the team runs at least forty-five miles per week.
Among leadership, humor and sarcasm is a trait these athletes possess.
Junior student Hunter Yager stated, “ [We enjoy running] because only one of us has hands that can catch a ball.”
Logan Davis, a 2017 Kouts graduate said, “Running is about building a culture of friendship and success.”
Because cross country is an individual sport, it pushes the students to become natural leaders.
Mr. Ron Kobza has coached the girl’s basketball team for ten years. He stressed the connection between the students and coaches, especially in a small school.
He said, “Each kid has a unique personality. You have to build a relationship with all of them and help them. Really, you have to be another parent.”
He’s excited for the upcoming season, but he’s knows the team has their work cut out for them.
Regarding leadership, Kobza said, “There’s more to sports than wins and losses. It’s much more than just basketball.”
In 2008, Mr. Tim Schwartz retired from his manufacturing career and made the decision to be more intentional with helping youth and became a teacher and coach. Not only does he coach both boys and girls high school soccer, he also coaches girls JV basketball and middle school spring soccer. The girls’ soccer team is captained by three juniors: Serena Birmingham, Kaitlyn Hussung, and Mckenna Magura. Schwartz works closely with his captains so they have the resources to share leadership tips with their team at weekly meetings.
Senior Josh Hoffman is working three jobs this summer and still finds the time to be on the boys volleyball team coached by Mr. Josh Birky.
Hoffman said, “It’s definitely overwhelming some days. I’ll be up and going from 9 o’clock in the morning to 10 o’clock at night, but volleyball is a way to help me get away from it.”
Hoffman and the rest of the team have been practicing during open gym periodically during the summer before their official season starts on July 31. Coach Birky has to work hard at balancing family time and work with coaching, but he said his wife is very supportive of him being involved with the school. Birky said he’s enjoyed seeing first hand the transformation of kids who never talked that much to those have found their voices and become leaders.
Give Me an H-O-B-Y!
Being on a sports team isn’t the only way to develop leadership skills as junior Allison Melendez learned when she participated in the HOBY leadership conference. HOBY was held at the University of Indianapolis June 8 through 11. The conference consisted of group time, speakers, and a service project.
Melendez said “I really didn’t know anyone since students from all over Indiana participated. By the end of the four days, though, everyone became sentimental about leaving.”
The small groups met three to four times a day to discuss everything they learned. A big part of HOBY is cheering. Allison said they spent two to three hours on the first day learning cheers.
Each speaker shared their testimony about leading. One of the speakers had the students list the characteristics of what makes a leader. Attributes on the list included patient, understanding, not quick to anger, and kind. Allison’s favorite speaker was Kevin Wanzer who gave a funny and meaningful speech. Wanzer brought in the Indianapolis Colts mascot who gave a powerful demonstration on love. He poured different colored water into a tank of clear water.
Melendez said, “At the end, it looked disgusting, but this represents our lives and how we have hardships everyday.”
The mascot then poured water purifier into the tank which represented love.
She volunteered at a school for the blind painting by cleaning windows and helping with other building maintenance. Other students made dog toys out of old jeans. Each regional group also has to create a service project to do on their own. Melendez and students from Morgan, Washington, and Chesterton will be volunteering at the Porter County Animal Shelter making dog treats and toys.
Soon after HOBY was over, Melendez traveled to Haiti on a mission trip with the Hopenstone Youth Group. The group stayed at Nehemiah Campus Ministries which was founded by a Haitian man, Pastor Pierre. It’s an organization for Haitians to go to school, attend church, and get help with finding jobs. They are a main organization for placing volunteers. The youth group participated in three main tasks. The first was to built a concrete and brick wall around the campus.
“My arms were so sore from pickaxing the trench.” said Melendez.
More pickaxing was involved with second project of building a foundation for a cooler truck to keep produce fresh. Allison and the group also worked on a farm planting produce, fixing an irrigation system, and mixing a kind of fertilizer the Haitians call ‘Planting God’s Way.’
She added that the most eye opening experience was going into the village of Chambrun where the houses are simply held together by mud. When the group arrived at the village, kids came running towards them and wanted to play and be held. They were dirty and not fully clothed, but
“At the same time, they were so joyous despite how little they have.”
Allison Melendez has certainly demonstrated what it means to be a leader through her actions.