If you are involved in high school athletics, have a child who participates or are just a fan of attending the games — and if you are a regular on social media — most likely, you have seen the CIAC’s public service announcement featuring student-athletes from across Connecticut.
The PSA has been displayed on the CIAC’s website for over a week with the hashtag #CTWillPlayAgain. The slogan has since been adopted by many schools while the spring sports season has been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea for this particular PSA — which has received over 41,000 views at last count — came out of Brookfield. In particular, the idea came out of the high school’s athletic advisory committee.
“With this group we talk about a lot of stuff like improving the overall athletic experience, input towards what I can do to make athletics better for them,” Brookfield athletic director Stephen Baldwin said. “Our theme is sportsmanship, doing the right things on and off the field.”
Baldwin held a virtual meeting with the council members not long after the school closed. The realization of the COVID-19 pandemic had begun to settle in.
Jamie Hiatrides, the president of the advisory council, suggested doing a video about how to stay safe during these challenging times. Baldwin, who also said fellow student and council member Brian Ritter had input on this choice, liked the idea so much that he contacted John Holt at the CIAC. Holt, in turn, reached out to Cherese Miller, the director of student activities at the CIAC.
“They came up with a phenomenal idea,” Miller said. “Initially, I was going to reach out to a few of our students on our student athletic advisory board at the CIAC, which has four student-athletes from each conference.”
Instead, Miller and Baldwin decided to have one representative from each of the state’s 11 conferences. It took a couple of days in late March to put together as both Baldwin and Miller reached out to league commissioners and athletic directors alike to come up with the 11 athletes — of which Hiatrides was one. Brookfield plays in the SWC.
“I thought it would be a great way to spread the message through the words of the athletes themselves,” Hiatrides said. “It’s definitely a little awkward talking to your camera in your room, but I knew I wasn’t the only one.”
The other 10 athletes in the video are: Xander Hutchins from Ledyard (ECC); Chloe Landers from Glastonbury (CCC); Julian Thayer from St. Paul (NVL); Kazell Stewart from Prince Tech (CTC); Johnny Briody from Ridgefield (FCIAC); Fiona Frederiks from Old Lyme (Shoreline Conference); Lucy Puskas from Shepaug Valley (Berkshire League); Anna Murphy from Stafford (NCCC), Nadia Joseph from Innovation (CRAL) and Phoenix Billings from Hand (SCC). Glenn Lungarini, the executive director of the CIAC, is the last person to speak in the video.
Miller told each student-athlete what to say, which included some of the social guidelines the health experts have repeatedly asked the general public to try and “flatten the curve” and limit the spread of the Coronavirus.
“What better way than to hear it from one of their own?,” Baldwin said. “What a powerful statement to kids from kids.”
Miller got back all of the video clips. Holt put the package together. It has been shown by various state media outlets.
“After the video was released, I was surprised by how much attention it got,” Hiatrides said. “I was getting several texts from people saying that I was on their TVs as well as emails from school administrators thanking me for my participation. I’m so glad I was a part of this effort to make a change within society. It feels amazing knowing each person has the power to make a difference.”
Baldwin said he has received a lot of kudos from many athletic directors, also asking how they could get involved. He hopes to do another video soon.
Unified Sports athletes and teammates put together their own PSA earlier this week.
“The feedback has been fantastic. It was great for everyone to come together for a good cause and to deliver such a powerful and important message,” Miller said. “Positive student voices are the strongest voices.”