Local program emphasizes positive potential of young athletes

Former athletes Dustin Smith and Shad Martin, however, want to challenge athletes to do more … much more. They created a program called Especially for Athletes (E4A) meant to encourage those who play sports to get the most out of themselves both physically and socially.

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The stereotype of the athlete has become so entrenched that everyone can immediately come up with a trait or two that comes to mind:

Arrogant, dumb, inconsiderate, shallow, self-centered, all about winning.

But anyone who spend any time around athletes know that there are many who break this mold.

Former athletes Dustin Smith and Shad Martin, however, want to challenge athletes to do more … much more.

They created a program called Especially for Athletes (E4A) meant to encourage those who play sports to get the most out of themselves both physically and socially.

“I was working with quarterbacks, running the Quarterback Elite program with Ty Detmer and I saw that it wasn’t just about how they threw the ball,” said Smith, president and co-founder. “They have so much power.”

Events like the one held in Orem on Friday and Saturday, athletes are encouraged to “do the work” and keep their “eyes up.”

In the opening activity, Smith started out by talking about many of the challenges faced by high school athletes: Cheating, drug use, bullying and suicide.

“It’s time for athletes to step forward and make a difference,” he told the crowd.

One of the guest speakers at Friday night’s kickoff was Lone Peak head boys basketball coach Quincy Lewis, who won the Naismith National High School Coach of the Year award this year.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing for athletes is what they learn about life,” Lewis said. “Dustin and Shad have a good idea and a good message to share.”

Lewis told athletes and their parents that were in attendance the importance of having a championship mentality both on and off the field/court.

“You can do more than you think you can,” he said during his speech. “Don’t be afraid to be really good.”

Lewis believe that these type of programs can have a big impact on youth in both their sports careers and their daily life.

“This really helps you be cognizant of what you want to get out of athletics,” Lewis explained. “Players, coaches, parents, everyone can get caught up in wins and losses. But they need to get ready for life and the more they are aware, the better chance they have.”

Smith and Martin, the co-founder, have seen the movement grow over the past couple of years and it includes the support of some big-name sports figures like Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz and former BYU Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.

Other well-known athletes and coaches who have backed the program include Ben Cahoon, Harvey Unga, Brandon Ogletree and Tiffany Bird.

Athletes from BYU, Utah, Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA and other major colleges have also taken on the challenge. Cougar sophomore quarterback Ammon Olsen was in attendance at the event Friday night.

Smith said the whole idea for E4A started when he and others realized some of the opportunities that they missed during their sports careers, particularly in high school.

“We didn’t do enough to help those around us,” he said. “We starting talking to the quarterbacks and they started doing some amazing things. We got together and wrote a book to push the message of committing athletes to lift others.”

The program is specifically aimed at athletes, who often have already discovered the benefits of hard work and pushing themselves.

“These kids aren’t cocky,” Martin said. “But they realize their own greatness. The goal is to flip a switch. When they are looking outward, they can do incredible things.”

Martin and Smith both talked about how during this time many of the athletes have the spotlight — or “sportlight” as they call it — on them and that gives them the ability to have a significant impact even through small actions.

The mottos of “Eyes Up” encourages them to look for opportunities, while the motto of “Do the Work” is a reminder that action is required as well.

“There are so many kids out there without a team, without a coach,” Smith said. “They are kids who don’t get to hear applause or cheers very often. These athletes need to be aware of what they have.”

During his portion of the presentation, Martin reminded the athletes to get great grades, that they should be making a new friend every week, to extend the team, to wake up early to improve something and to find those who need help.

“Some of these kids are so self-motivated that they will go out and do things tonight,” Smith said on Friday. “We’ll get immediate feedback. We’ll wake up and hear of kids who have already done stuff. Not all of them get it but enough do.”

For more information including the full pledge made by each of the athletes who commits to the ideals, go to especiallyforathletes.com.

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