Football programs are fond of their traditions. And many are protective of them as well. But there's one at Mill Creek High school that head coach Shannon Jarvis doesn't mind being emulated.
That's the Hawks' annual community service day. For the past five years, the Mill Creek program has teamed up with Gwinnett County Senior Services to assist local senior citizens with landscaping and other projects. It's as ingrained in the Mill Creek players as summer workouts and Friday night games.
"It's built up now so that it's an expectation," Jarvis said. "Our kids expect to do it every year."
Underscoring that was the participation this past weekend of Kyle Nesbitt, who is notable because he graduated in June. But Nesbitt, now enrolled in college, still considers himself part of the program and wanted to come back and help with a project he said made a big influence on him.
"Every year something new happens," Jarvis said. "That's the first time that has happened, but it's something we'll try to build on for next year."
Bad weather kept all the crews from getting out Saturday, but those who were able to participate again learned a lesson that Jarvis and the coaching staff wanted taught when the Helping Hawks project was started.
"A passion of mine is to help these young men develop. I think it is with all coaches," Jarvis said. "We're trying to let these boys see how much of a reward you get for helping people.
"We had a phrase when we first started this football program: We are what we do. We told the kids, 'You are not defined by your words, you are defined by your actions.'"
The Hawks' actions over the past five years have added up to many community service hours, helping local seniors while building bonds between the players. The season kicks off for Mill Creek on Friday night when Dacula visits in a big rivalry game, but for Jarvis one important tradition has already taken place.
"We couldn't do this without the work of the coaching staff. Without them, this wouldn't happen," Jarvis said. "As long as I'm coaching football, this will be something we do.
"At Mill Creek, it's as much of our tradition as anything else we do."
E-mail Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.