Truckee, North Tahoe student athletes commit to excellence on and off the field | SierraSun.com

Truckee, North Tahoe student athletes commit to excellence on and off the field

Truckee senior Jake Bullion brings down Spring Creek’s Jason Painter during the Wolverines 26-14 win last year. Bullion has been nominated by coaches the past three seasons as a leader on and off the field for the Athlete Committed program.

Since 2015, student athlete leaders at Truckee and North Tahoe have devoted time during the school year toward spreading a message to their peers of personnel excellence and accountability.

Through the Athlete Committed program, high school athletes from each area school are selected by coaches to spread the program's anti-drug and alcohol message to fellow students at all grade levels.

"I've definitely seen it make a difference," said two-year member Jackson Skaff, of Truckee's football team. "It's important to tell kids that there are older kids that don't do drugs or alcohol that play sports and give them people to look up to."

The program leverages the help of athletes at local schools around the country to encourage youths to avoid drugs and alcohol while taking accountability in the classroom and on the field.

Each June athletes from the athletic programs at Truckee and North Tahoe are nominated by coaches for the upcoming school year to join the program, which is a year-long commitment.

"It's an honor being in that program, having been elected, having people look up, and having coaches notice you follow the right path," said Skaff.

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"It's nice other sports are in it too. Right now since we're in football season, it's harder for us to be engaged where as the ski team people will help out a lot right now."

The athletes and the program coordinators said the program has made substantial gains since its inception, helping to lower occurrences of drug and alcohol abuse in the Truckee and North Tahoe areas.

"The program is pretty amazing in the way that it works — the youths helping and supporting their peers, and really being the educators and changing the community expectations," said Renee Farwig-Collins, Athlete Committed coordinator at Truckee, who has also been with the program since its inception. "It has been a real positive shift from what I've seen."

Farwig-Collins said Athlete Committed was brought to Truckee after a visit to the school district in Chico, Calif., and has since tackled issues surrounding local schools like binge drinking, prescription drug abuse, and most recently vaping.

"These kids get trained on that and we go into the schools and then we teach within our own school," said Farwig-Collins. "What we're finding is peers have more affect on peers. As parents, teachers, and admin we can say all we want, but they're not going to listen necessarily. It's who are their peers and who are their leaders that are going to have a bigger voice. With that the kids are teaching one another."

Aside from abstaining from drug and alcohol use, the program also encourages young athletes to take accountability in all aspects of life, from sleep and preparation to excel on game day, to being successfully in the classroom and in their social lives.

"It really encompasses the whole athlete," said Farwig-Collins. "We sit down once a month with the kids and we talk about, 'What are your struggles what are the things you are seeing on campus.'"

This approach has led to students stepping up to their peers on issues like drinking and marijuana abuse, according to Farwig-Collins, especially in athletics where one weak link can mean the difference between losing and winning.

"It's a program focusing on staying clean and living the best life you can and staying as healthy as possible," said Truckee linebacker Jake Bullion.

"Both Jackson (Skaff) and I are good examples. We set the pace on the football field and we set the pace outside of the football field in staying away from vaping, drugs, and alcohol and just focusing on sports and athleticism."

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.