All In The Campaign for Blair Academy 2018-2025
football players walk to the locker room
blair flag waving at Peddie Day
Preseason Builds Power & Purpose
Ashley Taube

The objective of any single sports competition is simple—win. But, at Blair, behind that goal lies a greater purpose, and it is the reason more than 170 athletes ended their summer breaks early and returned to the School for preseason—to build character. For Blair athletes, character encompasses a myriad of skills obtained both on and off the field: sportsmanship, growth, unity and teamwork. Throughout preseason, these are the skills coaches, advisors and leaders aimed to instill in their players long after the physical drills ended.

“Preseason is a kickstart to the season and a new school year for the Bucs,” Athletic Director Paul Clavel ’88 said. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know one another and participate in activities that are important for a well-rounded athlete.” 

After moving in early, preseason athletes began a schedule of practices with drills aimed at refining skills and punctuated with activities to build character, foster teamwork and bond teammates in a way few other activities can.

During preseason, senior captains and leaders also took time to sit down with Mr. Clavel, Assistant Athletic Director Rhett Moroses ’13 and Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79 to discuss their leadership abilities and how that translates to their teams’ potential for success or failure. The session was part of a program first initiated five years ago. The group discussed what it means to be a leader, how to create a positive culture and how to move from the “groaning zone to the growing zone,” as Mrs. Conforti-Browse explains it. The dynamic group brainstormed ways to improve team morale and discussed their pitfalls in leadership that will become the focus of future workshops throughout the year. 

“Be positive this year,” Mr. Clavel advised the group. “It’s a new day; take every negative and turn it into a positive. You’ve got to flip the narrative. I have a really good feeling about the leadership in this room. I’d put you up against anyone.”

With strong leadership to captain each team, preseason activities progressed into other programs that forged well-rounded athletes with character. Together with Mrs. Conforti-Browse, Bucs brainstormed positive traditions to introduce this year, discussed how to be a good teammate and learned how to foster unity during team-building sessions. English and mindfulness teacher Sarah O’Neil worked with teams in multiple capacities, hosting yoga classes for all teams and sharing a presentation about the mental game in sports performance, which combined mindfulness techniques with sports psychology. Ms. O’Neil’s lessons on mindfulness, or “attention with intention,” will help develop the mental grit needed in those difficult games in the upcoming months, including the much-anticipated Peddie Day.

Along with focusing on mental strength, athletes worked with Geno Palmasano, Blair’s strength and conditioning coach, to ensure the Bucs are taking care of themselves physically as well. With a state-of-the-art facility that includes cardio machines and premium Hammer Strength equipment featuring two full elite power squat racks, six half elite squat racks and one Smith Machine, the training curriculum focuses on implementing safe practices in efforts to not only improve performance, but also reduce injuries throughout athletes’ seasons.

As the fall season commences, the training and effort that athletes put in as summer came to a close will soon pay off. They have equipped themselves with skills to be successful not only on the field, but also in all aspects of school life. Soon, fans will be filing onto Hampshire Field to cheer them to victory and begin another exciting season of Blair Athletics. Go Bucs (Beat Peddie)!

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