Student athletes pledge to be leaders for their peers

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Living the life of an athlete is more than being good at football on the field or volleyball on the court. The Life of an Athlete Leadership Summit was held to empower Eau Claire Co. student athletes they can be leaders for their team and peers.

Nearly 100 students from Eau Claire Co. high schools and their coaches teamed up with the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention of Eau Claire Co. for the summit at Best Western Trail Lodge Hotel & Suites in Eau Claire.

Students like senior at Eau Claire Memorial Ben Everhart took part in the summit in hopes of becoming better leaders.

"If you're a good influence, you're a better leader to your teammates and peers," said Everhart who plays football, basketball and baseball. "It's an opportunity to become a better leader and hopefully learn a lot here and stay committed to the principles that we learn and apply them in our lives and to my team."

Senior at Eau Claire North Emma Fischer plays volleyball, softball and basketball.

"I care about North programs and I want them to succeed in everything they do," said Fischer. "I think sports is more of a character builder for me, I think for anyone. You can be good at them, have fun. But I think being involved with a team really helps you build social skills, build friends, good friends."

Youth advocacy advisor Deb Tackmann said most athletes understand they shouldn't smoke or drink since it impacts their performance on the field. But what happens if you come across a teammate who has violated the principles of an athlete? It's one of the topics she touched base on at the summit.

"So its called the carefrontation skill and it's doing a mini intervention, sharing your concern about this persons life and the next step is, how do you talk to your coach about that?" said Tackmann.

Memorial head football coach Paul Kling said athletes are influential to their peers.

"We want them to be able to not only talk about being positive but live a positive life," said Kling. "They're influential in how things will go and as far as a team and as a school, community."

He said the lessons learned at the summit apply outside of the athletic world too.

"This doesn't just apply to a football player, a basketball player, a hockey player. This will apply to any student that's going through high school that wants to succeed individually, whether it be in school, whether it be in their clubs or whatever they do just to make good choices that'll help them get setup as they get older and become adults," said Kling.

"You're looking at hundreds and hundreds of kids who are athletes who can change the culture of a school by their behaviors. These athletes are also role models for middle school and elementary children and actions speak so much louder than words," said Tackmann.

In the ends, students signed a pledge saying they would lead the lives of an athlete, be a leader and good influences for their peers.

Steve Fitzhugh, a former Denver Bronco, was the featured motivational speaker. The former NFL player shared "Championship Lessons from a Super Bowl Season" with the students and coaches.

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