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NVL Leadership Conference. A terrific way to break down barriers.

POSTED May 26, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

WATERTOWN: They came in uncomfortable and unsure of what they were in for.

They left understanding a little bit more about each other, perhaps knocking down some barriers that probably didn’t need to be there in the first place.

On Tuesday, May 17, the Naugatuck Valley League held a Leadership Conference at Camp Mataucha and while the title may have made them think they might have been indoors, just the opposite occurred.

It was four hours of outside activities designed to re-enforce why they are being looked as for future leaders in their respective sports.

In all, 160 student/athletes (10 from 16 NVL Schools) did everything from jump rope with as many as eight participants navigating the slow swinging rope to putting a team of eight on a suspended log without letting any of them to fall off.

It was all about teamwork.

It was all about breaking down pre-conceived notion about kids from the Valley or the Hills or the City.

To allow them the opportunity to work with peers that they may end up at college with or working with or for in the future.

“It allows these kids to find out about something about kids from other schools that they compete against,” Torrington Athletic Director Mike McKenna said. “It breaks down some of that animosity that they might feel when they don’t know each other.”

At the start of the day, which began at about 9 a.m., all 16 schools were brought to the Camps outdoor theater to get their instructions for the day.

As expected, each athlete sat and conversed with their teammates, for the most part, not branching out to meet anybody else just yet.

They were informed by the camp directors that this would not be the norm today, they would be taken out of their comfort zone.

Through a series of activities on one of the fields they would play on half the event, the athletes were gradually mixed up to the point that they were to be working with someone they didn’t know.

“I thought it was a good experience,” Cam Cerruto from Torrington said. ”Meeting all the kids from other schools. It was definitely fun to come around and meet new athletes, not just when we are competing against them.”

Cerruto is a junior on the Raiders baseball team which will be in the State Tournament when it begins next week.

“I met a lot of kids from other NVL schools,” Brian Considine from St Paul said. “The team bonding stuff let us get to know each other. Just a fun day in general.”

Considine is also a sophomore for the Falcons basketball team and is being looked at as a future leader.

Michael Shannon, a junior football player at Waterbury Career Academy took some positives from the day as well.

“I was kind of hard at the start,” Shannon said. “But it progressed and got easier with every activity.”

“I really enjoyed this,” Ashley Lombardi, a junior from Oxford said. “I went last year to so I was kind of familiar with some of the activities. I thought it was very beneficial to see all the other athletes from the other teams because you only see one side of them when you play against them. It was good to get to know them as people, not just athletes.”

“I think the biggest thing that I like about it is that they see their counterparts from the other schools and in setting different then the field of competition,” Woodland AD Mike Miles said. “So when you’re going out on the football field, you’re seeing kids you already know that are just like you. They’re not the enemy, they’re not somebody you have to talk trash too. They’re just kids like they are.”

Some of the activities on the field included such challenges as hold PFC piping together so that a marble could run from one end to the other or making a hula hoop move between teams that are holding hands.

In the woods, the athletes needed to work together on a moving wood platform so that neither side of it touched the ground while they climbed on, off or even jumped on it at the same time.

Swinging from a rope onto a small wood platform that every team needed to land on without going off was certainly a challenge.

Some burgers and salads capped off a day of fun that served a greater purpose than just playing games.

It taught our future leaders how to work together, even if they were from different schools, back rounds or geographic areas.

Team building at its finest.

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