New System Helps Ease Transition

The transition from high school to college football can be overwhelming. The increased level of competition, living away from home, and tougher academics are just a few of the challenges faced by freshmen. To combat that, the WVU football coaching staff implemented a new program this year.

The "big brother" program was designed to allow each freshman and newcomer to have a designated upperclassman as a mentor during the daunting first weeks on campus. The big brother was available for questions, problem solving, and just for a friendly ear to help ease what can be a traumatic experience.

The program was suggested by assistant coach Calvin Magee during WVU's "hideaway" for coaches, when the staff evaluates the program from top to bottom. After last year's camp experience, when freshman Liam Ezekiel barely made it out of the car before returning home, the staff wanted to make sure that someone familiar with the routine of Mountaineer football and college life was available to each player. Thus, the program was born.

"I wish I had this program when I was a freshman," senior wide receiver A. J. Nastasi said during fall camp. "When you come in as a freshman, there's just so much stuff that's new, that it can be overwhelming. Just learning where classes are, getting your schedule, where to eat, all that stuff in addition to football can be tough."

Nastasi was one of the upperclassmen who was designated to shepherd one of the youngsters through the transition. He was assigned freshman defensive back Mike Lorello.

"Mike hasn't really had to ask me a whole lot," Nastasi said of the precocious freshman who will avoid a redshirt and play this fall. "He was here a lot of the summer, and that helps. We have just talked a couple of times, though, and I think it's great to have someone you can go to for things like that."

Sophomore guard Jeff Berk echoed Nastasi's sentiments.

"Having someone you can go to with questions is really great. I went through this a couple of years ago, and it would have helped a lot to have someone to talk to. Making the jump up to college is tough."

The implementation of this program is more evidence of the effort the football staff has put into making the players more comfortable off the field, and in helping them understand that the coaches value them as people, first and foremost. The program helps build trust in a couple of ways.

First, and most obviously, it helps the newcomers adjust to the program and to school more rapidly. Unknowns are the greatest factors in producing stress, and by having a mentor available for questions, many unknowns can be relived.

On another level, it also helps build confidence in the seniors. By acting as mentors, they can begin to build a relationships with the young players more quickly, which can lead to better team harmony.

"I was really honored to be picked by the coaches," Nastasi said. "I take it seriously. I think it's an important program, and I think it will help the new guys get settled in more quickly."

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