r Especially for Athletes (E4A) is a foundation started by Dustin Smith with the purpose of inspiring young athletes to make a difference in the lives of others. High school student-athletes traditionally receive more attention for their successes than other extra-curricular programs. This is what Dustin Smith calls the “Sportlight”. The special position athletes have with the “Sportlight” gives them the unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.
Dustin Smith started Especially for Athletes about seven years ago with the hope of using the attention that athletes get in the community to create more positive cultures in schools. When Dustin started the foundation, he had a family member who was being bullied, knew some kids that had committed suicide, and was aware of some parents who were hurting because of what their kids were experiencing at school.
“Athletes are able to do a lot more good that just entertain us on a Friday night,” Dustin said. Dustin used his position as an athletic coach and “gathered other coaches and other leaders around the state to form this message for everybody, but especially for the athletes.” Dustin presents upwards of fifty assemblies throughout the school year to young athletes across the valley.
When Especially for Athletes started about seven years ago, Maple Mountain High School in Nebo School District was one of the first institutes to get on board with the idea. Dave Boyack, Athletic Director at Maple Mountain High School, says that since partnering with the foundation, “athletes are looking out for kids that need a friend [and for] kids that are sitting alone at the lunch table. [Athletes] are doing more than just playing sports, they are learning life-long skills to serve rather than just play.”
Dustin passes out athletic wristbands with the phrase, “Eyes Up-Do the Work.” This wristband has proven to be motivational for student-athletes to keep their eyes focused on others’ needs.
Upon the conclusion of the assembly, Dave Boyack selects a group of students to create a leadership committee who will meet with him once a month about Especially for Athletes.
DeAnn Nielsen, Principal at Maple Mountain High School, said the principles taught during the Especially for Athletes assembly are a great reminder for everyone. “Students have a lot on their plate,” she said. “The way we are all going to find happiness is by serving others and looking outside of ourselves.”
Kacey Melton, a member of the drill team at Maple Mountain High School, said, “I love this assembly because I feel like it is super motivating for athletes and it really makes you realize how grateful you are for the opportunity to participate in sports. Everyone is going to have hard days in their sport and in life, but just keep your eyes up and do the work.”
Bradley Weston, a tennis player at Maple Mountain High School, said the assembly makes him aware that there are kids struggling in the school. It is important to “have your eyes up and actually implement what you learn.”
Maple Mountain High School implements many service projects throughout the year. During the spring, Maple Mountain hosts Nebo School District’s annual Super Start Track and Field Day, where students with special needs participate in track and field events. Dave Boyack said, “This track and field day is a great opportunity for the students at Maple Mountain High physical education classes and athletics to serve these incredible kids in Nebo School District.”