HARWICH ─ Riley Demanche and Jason Masiello spent their summer vacations like many high school student athletes, working and prepping for their respective sports, but they also took time out to attend an MIAA leadership conference they hope will further unify not only Monomoy's student-athletes, but the school's student body in general.
The duo, Monomoy Regional High School's student MIAA Ambassadors, first heard about the New England Student Leadership Conference while attending student ambassador meetings. According to Masiello, Phil Napolitano of the MIAA encouraged both young men to attend.
“He suggested Riley and I attend it because you learn a lot of great leadership skills, and not just with sports,” said Masiello, who will be in his junior year at MRHS.
The conference included more than 200 students from all around New England and New York and was held across three nights and four days at Worcester State in June. Demanche said he and Masiello first discussed it with Monomoy Athletic Director Karen Guillemette, ultimately receiving approval from Principal Bill Burkhead at the end of the last school year.
Demanche, who noted that the state of Massachusetts was the best represented at the conference, said the focus was mainly on different leadership tactics that students could adopt on their own and take back with them into their respective schools and sports programs.
He was especially impressed with the conference's guest speakers and their messages on perspective. Speakers at the 2017 event included James Orrigo, a motivational entertainer, and leadership speaker Debra Hult of Core Trainings,
“We had four really good guest speakers and all of them had a different story, but it was all about perspective and how life in general is how you want it to be,” said Demanche. “You can take that back to your school, whether it's based on your teams or in the classrooms.”
Masiello said a part of the conference involved creating action plans student to take back to school. He said his and Demanche's involves encouraging greater leadership from team captains, finding ways to help team and student leaders learn effective leadership skills, and getting more students involved not only in athletics but in student life overall.
“I'm definitely going to try to boost the student involvement and get the whole student lifestyle better, more involved, more fun,” said Demanche.
Of course, given that the two are student-athletes there was a focus on sports. Demanche said a memorable discussion centered around the popularity of certain sports versus the challenge of getting fans to show up for others.
“Kids from all over the states [talked about how] different states have different popular sports,” he said. “Some of the ideas we talked about were about how to get more involvement from students. Hopefully Jason and I can spread the love for each sport and get the students more involved with everything.”
One suggestion Demanche is considering is entering a fan video competition through which students create their own school spirit video. Masiello, meanwhile, is focusing on improvements for the varsity basketball team on which he plays, as well as Monomoy's athletics in general.
“Athletically for the basketball team I think we could be really good this year skill wise, but commitment and some other things I think we can work on that I think will make us much better and much more successful. Moving into Div. 3 it's going to be very important to have good leadership skills,” he said. “We're a new school and right off the bat I think people think that athletically we're not that big, but I think we really can do well. Basketball had a great year and football, field hockey obviously. Getting us on the map as a sports school is important, but also I'd like to get the number of kids playing sports up because that just makes everything easier. School spirit goes up and gets so much better.”
Other suggestions for improving school spirit involved expanding themes for fans at games and finding positive approaches to appropriate fan behavior from students and parents.
“We definitely talked about student sections, making themes more open, and parent sportsmanship,” said Masiello. “I think we could do some things differently at Monomoy.”
Both said the conference helped them on a personal level as well. Demanche said he was inspired by the MIAA's Peter Smith, who began as a student ambassador, worked as an intern during college, and is now a well-known MIAA employee. Demanche, a Monomoy senior, said he's considering following a similar path.
“My goal is to hopefully get an internship and see where it goes from there,” he said.
Masiello feels that the skills he learned will translate into many areas of his life.
“This was a great conference,” he said. “It wasn't just for sports. Getting involved with a leadership program is important because the leadership skills I'm learning now will help me in the future.”
Representing his school was also a plus.
“I feel like some of the stuff Riley and I are learning is definitely going to help Monomoy, and it feels good to represent Monomoy on a big stage like that,” Masiello said. “Because our school is awesome.”