Legacy program spends extra time strengthening athletes’ character

12/23/2013 12:00 AM

12/22/2013 12:07 PM

One of the fundamental ideals behind high school athletics is to build character within student athletes. At Legacy, that principle is given extra attention. Athletic coordinator and head football coach Chris Melson has implemented a core values program that focuses on turning athletes into model citizens, and its affects are apparent.

Rodney Rogers, a photographer from Mansfield who has contributed photos to the News-Mirror, attended most Broncos football games this season and has spent some time around other programs, and took notice of the athletes’ behavior.

“They just really seem to show an appreciation for others – an appreciation beyond themselves,” he said. “They respect everybody that’s around them. I’ve been very impressed. I must say, it is refreshing to see a coach go beyond the X's and O's and spend time each week having an impact on their lives beyond the sport itself.”

For Melson, who has been at Legacy since the school opened, building character starts off the field.

“We start off in the offseason and spend every Friday for seven weeks talking about our core values,” he explained. “We train them on the core values of our program. They’ve been the core values of this program since we started seven years ago.”

Legacy specifies seven core values, and the program spends one full day focusing on each of them. Coaches speak to the athletes about it, often using personal accounts or even movie and video clips. The students take notes just as they would any other educational class.

The values are: Teammates; truth; hard work; relationships; championships; today; the future.

In addition to this approach, this past year Melson created a leadership team consisting of nine senior and three junior student-athletes. This council meets weekly and discusses attributes of a leader and how to lead. They also take lessons from a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) program called “Life Lessons for Athletes.”

“Those things filter down from our leadership team all the way down,” Melson said.

In addition to developing young men and women for the playing field, Melson feels it helps the athletes in competition.

“We have seen a tremendous change in how we handle adversity because of this type of training,” he explained. “In a game, I can go to my guys and we can recall the lessons we’ve learned in our studies that they can relate to, and all of a sudden there’s a right way to remember how to handle this and go forward. Eventually, it almost becomes second nature to them once it’s ingrained in them. It’s made a huge difference in how we handle things throughout the week and in games.”

Anyone who attended a Broncos football game this year probably also witnessed another product of the team’s core values. Following each contest – win or lose – the entire team would walk along and shake hands with all the fans.

“The whole team got behind it and it became like a family atmosphere, which we always longed for,” Melson said.

In fact, “family” became a unifying cry for the school. The team came up with an acronym: Forget About Me, I Love You.

“F.A.M.I.L.Y. became our battle cry and we hoped to make it school-wide,” Melson said. “That’s what we’d like this campus to be – one big family that supports each other and care about each other.

“We talked about how it doesn’t really matter how successful you are if you don’t treat people right,” he added. “We feel like you always need to treat everyone with respect and dignity and appreciation. Every week, we hammer these guys to treat people right, like fellow students. We’re no better than anybody, we’re just athletes.”

The F.A.M.I.L.Y approach seems to be working. Athletes show up in support of other programs. In fact, in a bit of a role-reversal, several football team members traveled to cheer on the band at the UIL Regional Competition this past fall. One football player addressed a band team meal, thanking the band for all the hard work they put in to play on Friday nights – pointing out that it wasn’t lost on the football team that the band was often still on the practice field after players had hit the showers.

“I can’t compare it to anybody else, but I know that here we have a close-knit bunch of students that care about each other in program to program and activity to activity,” Melson said. “We called it a Bronco nation for a long time – since we opened the school. But this year, with the leadership of these seniors, for the first time it really felt like we were all Broncos together. It was a great feeling and something I hope we can continue for years to come.”

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