Bridgton Academy Shines at Leadership Day at Hyde School

Nick LeBel
Ryan Harding (center) at Leadership Day at Hyde School

Leadership is a quality that is taught, encouraged and practiced at Bridgton Academy every day. In fact, Bridgton Academy includes in its mission statement that we “empower leadership by fostering enduring, trusting and transformational relationships with our students”. So, when the opportunity arose to take a cohort of Academy students to Hyde School in Bath, Maine to join the fourth annual Leadership Day, Bridgton Academy jumped, sending seven young men to the event. Over the course of the day, they rubbed shoulders with 1,200 students, teachers and presenters from 55 Maine schools – from middle schools all the way to BA’s Postgraduate young men.

It was a complete learning experience – they heard from seasoned leaders, they tested their own leadership knowledge, and they reflected about the qualities found in leaders. By embodying the tools and qualities they share every day with the Bridgton Academy community, our young men were able to take away leadership lessons that will arm them with invaluable skills – and strengthen their “tool boxes” – as they grow into young men.

Each day, the faculty, coaches and staff at Bridgton Academy asks our students to be leaders – whether it’s in the classroom, on the field or in the residence halls. It’s something that our students are tasked with every day – because someone is always watching. The actions of our young men are under the microscope of expectations – with the faculty and staff always encouraging them, and watching each class evolve. Because of this, it is usually the faculty discussing what leadership is; how can they best illustrate it to our students?

On November 6, however, at Hyde School, our seven student representatives were the ones doing the thinking – it was up to them to determine what leadership really is. BA Faculty member Tim Atwood led seven BA students to Bath: Ryan Harding (Shirley, MA/Baseball), JJ Clark (Stowe, VT/Hockey), Dan Hutchinson (Montreal , Canada/Football), Nolan Cooney (East Greenwich, RI/Football), Brandan Forauer (Hanover, NH/Lacrosse), Thomas Martin (Hanover, MA/Hockey), Ben Rees (South Burlington, VT/Wolverines). These students had been selected by their Dorm Directors as student representatives, already exhibiting the qualities people look for in a leader; this was a day for them to cultivate those budding skills.

Tim Atwood presents to students at Leadership Day at Hyde School

Atwood said, “Our students were able to take their prior knowledge of understanding of what leadership meant on the field, in the classroom and around campus and be able to begin to shape the way in which they could convey that to the students in North Bridgton as well as they future campus they will step foot on.”

With nametags emblazoned with words that go hand-in-hand with leadership, students walked into Hyde’s gymnasium to hear the event’s Keynote Speaker, US Senator Susan Collins. Senator Collins addressed a standing-room-only crowd about not just leadership, but teamwork as well – something the four-term US Senator knows well. “(Senator Collins) explained to the room the importance of making allies with your enemies, using an example of her first political race,” said Jenny Collinson, Director of Communications at Hyde. “Her opponent for governor was none other than Angus King, who she now works side-by-side with in the U.S. Senate over twenty years later. She also challenged the students to step up to leadership positions to erase cyber-bullying in their schools,” continued Collinson.

After the Senator was finished, students were reminded of their nametags and the phrases that were on them; they were then split up into groups based on the phrases. Each group formed a team, traveling together between three workshops led by 30 Maine community and business leaders – including one led by BA’s own Tim Atwood.

BA baseball player Ryan Harding was among the lucky Wolverines to attend the day, and returned to North Bridgton brimming with the experience and excited for the future: “It was a great chance to reflect on not just the positive traits that make us good leaders, but also the parts of ourselves that we’d like to take away. One of the sessions I was in had us write good and bad leadership qualities on Post-It notes and them stick them to ourselves, and during our conversation we pulled the negative ones off – it was a great way to represent how we want to be viewed as leaders.”

Tim Atwood knows a thing or two about competition and performance; he was a four-year baseball player at Roger Williams University, as well as a seven-year veteran of the BA Baseball coaching staff. Coach Atwood spoke about the importance of the “practice the way you play” credo: you can’t coast your way through a practice and expect to be able to “turn it on” when the real competition begins. Real leaders are putting the same amount of effort into their practice performance as they do under the bright game-time lights.

Tom Martin and Brendan Fornauer

Atwood extended that ethos into the classroom as well – every day you approach your classes the same way you would a test day. By performing at your best all the time, you’re setting yourself up for success – all the time. “It was all about how you never want to work ‘down’ – you never want to just make it through practice and then have to play ‘up’ to game speed, whether it’s on the field or in the classroom. You want to keep that 110% going in practice – that way the game’s just another thing,” Harding said.

At the end of the day, the entire conference came returned to the gym, where students were picked to join a panel to discuss takeaways from the day. To the complete lack of surprise of anyone who knows him, Montreal’s Danny Hutchinson was selected – and he made sure to make the most of his time with the microphone. “It was a great day learning about school and athletic leadership,” said Hutchinson, “and being on the panel really got me to think about how our leadership at school can be easily changed and how great of a community we already are.”

The 18-member student panel answered five questions put to them by moderator Kevin Folan of Hyde School. The questions ranged from “What inspired you today” to “What are some of the most critical issues of your generation?” Many students promised to eliminate cyber-bullying in their schools in response to Senator Collins’ speech, and others mentioned the takeaways from the workshops they had attended, such as the importance of embracing adversity, learning from setbacks, and having the confidence to be who you are. Since the morning was devoted to hearing expertise from adults, the panel provided the students an opportunity to reflect and weigh in on leadership challenges and strengths they face on a daily basis.

When it was all said and done, Hyde School’s Jenny Collinson said, “We had 150 attendees the first year we hosted this, and it’s grown to 1,200. It’s been phenomenal to be able to reach out to fellow Maine students and inspire them to be leaders.”

“Stefan Jensen, the Maine Leadership Director, and the Hyde School do a tremendous job putting together a great event for students around the state to interact with each other and partake in such a wonderful event,” said Atwood. “ Over the last few years, student leaders from Bridgton have embraced the opportunity to attend this event and listen to some great leaders from around the state as they continue their ongoing quest of creating their own leadership style.”

At the end of the day, BA’s representatives returned to North Bridgton flush with new knowledge and secure in the fact that they’re being equipped with the tools they need to be successful leaders in the future. The world is in good hands – and so is Bridgton Academy.

Special thanks: Image Credit: Hyde School