STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Young men can always use more support, something Burnet High School head football coach Jerod Rye knows. It’s one of the reasons he invited 37 men to join a mentorship program for the Bulldogs squad.
“The point is to inject more positive stuff into a kid’s life,” Rye said. “There are no teachers, administrators, or fathers of players. We want it to be brand new to them.”
Rye began putting together the group of men this summer. He initially contacted 20 he thought would make good mentors. Rye also asked them to connect him with others they thought would be a good fit.
When the Burnet football team gathered at the field house August 23, the players met their mentors.
“This is a chance to introduce them to someone whose sole purpose is to encourage them,” Rye said.
All that’s required of the men is they serve as a friend and role model to the players.
Rye matched the player and mentor and ensured most did not know each other before meeting.
“I’m most excited about that,” he said. “They sat down with the kids. I’m starting to see conversations with the kids they don’t know. We let them visit for fifteen minutes.”
Rye picked men known for their character.
The coach said 50 percent of the players are in single-parent homes, but all students can benefit from another adult who shows up and encourages them.
The mentors will stay in contact with the student-athletes during the week, eat breakfast with them each game day, and find them at the end of home games to congratulate and encourage them. Mentors aren’t required to attend out-of-town games, but Rye said, if they do, he hopes they’ll find their player after the contest.
In addition to the mentors being a blessing to the players, Rye said they also have been an asset to the coaching staff.
The head coach considered changing the initial mentors-Bulldogs meeting location to better accommodate the near 100 individuals in the field house meeting room, noting it was a bit tight in there, but he quickly decided against it.
“I like that it’s compact,” he said. “Everyone is packed in.”
His goal is to include the junior varsity and the freshmen in the next couple of seasons.