By David Fong
TROY — For the past six weeks, dozens of Troy High School students have been doing the unthinkable.
They’ve been coming to school early.
They do not come as punishment, they do not come for extra credit and they do not come before the sun rises because their clocks are broken.
Rather, they come because they want to learn to be better leaders.
Once a week for the past month and a half, Troy High School football coach and intervention specialist Matt Burgbacher has been running Leadership Training seminars before school for student-athletes interested in learning to become better leaders. The program began as a training tool for his football players, but soon branched out as athletes from nearly every other sport at Troy High School began attending on a regular basis.
Burgbacher said he hopes to continue to grow the before-school program, making it available to all students.
“It’s not that we are trying to reinvent the wheel here,” Burgbacher said. “But I felt as though I could offer a different perspective on leadership. We feel as though one area our kids can always improve upon is leadership, so we’ve made the commitment to helping them do just that.”
Burgbacher has created a series of PowerPoint presentations — each of which run roughly 35 minutes long, allowing the students to arrive at 7 a.m. and go through the presentation before the school day begins — dealing with numerous aspects of leaderships. He draws from numerous books on leadership he’s read and seminars he’s attended, quoting everyone from Urban Meyer to Mark Twain in his presentations.
He touches on a broad range of topics — some of which are directly related to leadership, many of which serve to make students not only better leaders, but better people. His presentations cover a gamut of topics from treating others with respect, punctuality, improving work ethic and the power of positivity.
“It’s not like this is stuff they don’t know,” Burgbacher said. “But we are trying to give them a true definition of what a leader is and, especially in sports, what kind of leader we are looking for. We don’t just want the ‘rah-rah’ leader — although that’s important sometimes, too — but we want true ‘servant leaders.’ We want to train kids to be unselfish leaders. We feel like a true leader is someone who is going to do something for someone who can’t do anything for them in return.”
Burgbacher said he hopes the leadership training will pay dividends for Troy’s athletes not only on the playing fields, but in the classroom and community, as well.
“We want to teach them life lessons,” he said. “They are going to be faced with a lot of different situations in their life where things don’t always go their way or how they expect them to go. How they react in those situations will prove whether or not they are true leaders.”
Troy High School principal William Overla said he’s pleased with how the program has gone in its first year, and looks forward to it growing in the future.
“Matt has done an outstanding job,” Overla said. “He’s a good coach, a good teacher and a good person — he can show these kids what a true leader is supposed to look like. I think it’s just fantastic.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong