At Bellmore-Merrick's Brookside School, event inspires unity among students


The inaugural Unity, Sportsmanship and Civility Summit was held at the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s Brookside School on May 17, educating leading figures in high school sports on how to keep their athletic programs positive, both on and off the field.

The USC summit was spearheaded by Eric Caballero, the director of athletics for Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, as well as nine other athletic administrators from around Nassau County. They gathered a total of 400 Section 8 coaches and student athletes to represent their school districts. Section 8 is the Nassau County division for sports in New York.

The event, coordinated in response to recent uncivil behavior of athletes, featured four guest speakers and a full day of workshops, seminars and activities.

The goal of the USC Summit is to “focus on the three pillars that are important to educationally based athletics and unity, sportsmanship, and civility,” Caballero said. “They will weave that into their presentation with an interactive activity, so to speak music, getting the kids up and focusing on why we’re there in the first place.”

“It’s a big turnout,” said Stacy Brief, an event organizer for the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, which hosts similar wellness summits. “The schools have sent four student athletes and two coaches, as well as some of the athletic administrators from each school across Nassau County. We’ve got towns from all the way from Valley Stream to all the way up to Locust Valley, we’ve got Seaford, we’ve got Freeport. There really are not very many districts that aren’t here today.”

The USC Summit brought together many schools and organizations to support a common message: Individuals can improve their communities.

“It’s really important to be mindful of how you take care of yourself and how you take care of other people,” Brief said.

Luke Perfetti, a lacrosse player from Wantagh High School, expressed that good behavior should be done for one’s own sake.

“What you do on the field doesn’t always get recognized, whether it’s good, but if you do something bad, you’re under a scope,” Perfetti said. “You should do things for you — not because of what others think of you.”

The summit ended with the students participating in athletic activities coordinated by Lead U. Lead U specializes in teaching students of all ages about respect, communication and mindfulness in an interactive, high-energy way, said co-founder JD Wilson. It part of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide.

“We’ve been working with Stacey Brief and her family for a while now with their youth summit and with SPTS,” said Wilson. “Lead U brings in interactive empowerment experience for learners of all ages. So we do two things throughout our session today, during our keynote, we’re going to play and we reflect. And then those activities are going to help us reflect on topics like active listening, communication, and smart choices.”

“I think in today’s climate, especially post COVID, adolescents in general, it’s tough out there,” sports agent, author, and educator Mark Leinweaver told the Herald. “My keynote presentation was about self representation, that everyone is a celebrity. All celebrities have agents. And so if you’re a celebrity, you are the agent of yourself.

Leinweaver’s presentation continued to include good examples of sportsmanship, and poor examples of sportsmanship.

Staff from the schools attending were pleased with how the event went over.

“It’s important for them to see that we’re here, Understanding the importance of what today is all about,” said Valley Stream Athletic Director Brett Kornbloum. “We want to see them interact with their peers and get involved and go through all the work sessions.

“I think it’s great,” said Seaford Athletic Director Kevin Witt. “I think Section 8 is doing a great job of running this program, as it is important in sports. You know, we had a great opening session that talked about being leaders and making a change in the world and everything they do. This really is taking our student athletes, our coaches, our administrators and taking it to the next level.”