Wolves learn life lessons

A year ago firefighter Mike Engle approached Coupeville High School football coach Ron Bagby with an idea to bring players, coaches and the community closer together.

Engle and Bagby, along with a host of others, put that plan into action Wednesday and Thursday when the entire Wolf football program participated in the Axioms of Leadership training seminar.

“We’ve adopted a fire service program to a high school football team the best we could,” Engle said.

Originally established as a program to help develop character, a sense of value, leadership and teamwork skills for firefighters, this week’s two-day, overnight session at Mickey Clark Field was a serious change of scenery for the organizers.

“We’ve done firefighter recruits all the way to 30-year veterans, but this is the first time we’ve done it with a youth group,” Mike “Mo” Baxter said.

Baxter, a firefighter in Chatsworth, Ga.., is a primary speaker at events around the nation, along with Oak Harbor firefighter Craig Anderson. The two travel all around the country to teach, and meet annually at Central Whidbey for a clinic. The idea of Axioms of Leadership was generated in Georgia by Baxter’s former colleague Scott Milsap, however, the first-ever event was held in Greenbank after a friendship bonded between Anderson and Milsap.

“It was born on Whidbey Island and it has spread across the country,” Baxter said.

Since the program started on Whidbey, it seemed natural to start a new phase in the same location.

“The idea of this class is to get these young men to see that they are young men and to think bigger than just right now,” Baxter said.

Just as firefighters would do, CHS football players and coaches started their training on Wednesday with a four-mile run.

“It about killed all the coaches,” Ron Bagby said. “I’m so sore.”

Players and coaches then sat through classes before splitting 40-plus participants off into four teams. Each of those teams divided off into separate “warrior stations” where they had to solve a variety of problems as a group.

“Some of them are physically demanding, but you don’t get exhausted,” junior quarterback, Mike Bagby said. “You’ve got to be able to work as a team to get it done.”

All names of the obstacles originate from various events involving rescue crews around the nation.

Timmerman’s Tank, named for a firefighter lost in the World Trade Center, asks groups of five to stand with both feet on large wood blocks and move step by step through a course by pulling up simultaneously on a rope. Ropes aren’t allowed to touch the ground or participants must return to the beginning of the course.

Other stations included the OK Collapse, Keokuk Crossing and the Howard Maze.

“We’ve really stuck together through all the stations,” senior lineman Danny Graham said. “There’s no football orientation besides teamwork—it’s a group of guys going at it for one goal.”

The teams also competed against one another in obstacle course races and even a water balloon fight at midnight on Wednesday.

Ideally the seminar will help the Wolves win games this year, but it’s not the primary goal, according to Baxter.

“It’s not just about football,” he said. “It’s about helping these young men work on self-motivation, self-improvement—this is about building community.”

Engle, who played a major role in organizing the event, wanted to make it clear it would have never happened without the help of the community. Various groups and businesses, including Lumberman’s, Wells Fargo, Pizza Factory, Lions Club, Prairie Center, Windermere and Brenda’s Gift Shop played big roles in a successful event. Mayor Nancy Conard along with members of police department and hospital came to speak to the athletes.

“The whole community got behind us,” Engle said.

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