BHS seniors provide unique experience on leadership

Bainbridge is going to “over-exaggerate” leadership on its football team this season.

One of four senior captains and linebacker Jeff Utter said: “In the past, we have had trouble with leadership. So, now we are really trying to over-exaggerate leadership. It’s something we’ve never done before.” The other captains are cornerback Johnny Breen, running back-defensive back Micah Bryant, and wide receiver-linebacker Caleb Durrance.

Coach Jeff Rouser decided to tackle the leadership problems in the past by creating a council. “We have a Senior Leader Council where they periodically get together to continually work toward how to make this year the best experience of their lives,” Rouser said. “Among other things they are establishing a charter with their goals for this season on and off the field.”

Rouser invited the seniors over to his house a handful of times for a pancake breakfast to discuss how they can help build the program. Some of the goals they came up with include getting teammates more involved in offseason training, safe weightlifting sessions run by the seniors, practicing on the field every week and making underclassmen feel involved.

The Class of 2023 believes it can change the outlook of leadership because of the obstacles it has overcome the past few years. Most seniors on the team have not had a full varsity season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they have been thrown into leadership roles. “We had to grow into a mold of leaders quickly because it was handed to a lot of us as sophomores and juniors by prior seniors,” wide receiver Luke Lavigne said.

In addition, this class has been by each other’s side since kindergarten. Although they may not have all played football since they were little, their bond is unbreakable. “Just growing up with them and playing sports with them since kindergarten, it’s sad that I only have one more year with them but excited about what we can make out of this,” Lavigne said.

Utter added: “They are really important to me. This senior year is what I’ve been dreaming about my whole life and to play with these guys is a dream come true. I know I can count on them, and they have my back.”

Rouser and his seniors believe their class is one-of-a-kind. “Biggest thing is it’s not about themselves,” Rouser said. “They aren’t playing for their own stats; they are just as happy making a block for teammates.”

Their resilience has allowed them to break out of their shells in a unique way. Instead of building chemistry on the field, the seniors met in weekly Zoom meetings.

In addition, they headed to Central Washington in June for an overnight camp where they practiced and scrimmaged against other teams in the state. Rouser said they enjoyed being together in person again. “They truly appreciate being together after being isolated for so long,” he said.

All 12 seniors progressed over time, but Rouser said lineman Charlie Odermat broke out of his comfort zone the most.

“Charlie is a perfect example of how this game can be such a positive influence on developing adolescents,” Rouser said. “He came in as a freshman very quiet and reserved. He had a couple fantastic seniors who always looked out for him, showed him how to work hard, helped him and became more confident in himself.”

Odermat said he has seen his skills grow. “I feel like I have a lot more leadership skills,” he said. “I have gotten in better shape and feel less nervous compared to when I first joined.”

The seniors are looking forward to leading the underclassmen this fall.

“I definitely want to set a good example,” Odermat said. “I want to take some of the stuff I learned from the seniors as a freshman and teach that to the new freshmen. I want to make everyone feel included.”

Utter added, “If I can make a difference off the field instead of being the star on the field, that’s more impactful.”