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Keeping “Eyes Up” at Pleasant Grove

By Kurt Johnson
Photo by Kurt Johnson

Pleasant Grove High is one of a growing number of athletic programs throughout the state that is participating in Especially for Athletes, a program designed to encourage student athletes to make a difference in their communities and on campus, not just on the field of play. Coach Darrin Henry and his son Payton, are two Vikings who have taken the pledge.

“My dad taught me this as a youth as well,” Coach Henry said. “You’re blessed to be on a baseball team, you’re blessed to be on a football team, you’re blessed to be on a wrestling team, whatever you’re with. “You have an automatic group of friends and everybody doesn’t have that blessing in a school, so look for those who don’t have that blessing and invite them into your group, invite them into your personal space and get to know who they are too because it’s important. We can set the example and be better people.”

Pleasant Grove baseball's Darrin Henry is among the coaches who participate in the Especially For Athletes program. (Photo by Kurt Johnson)

Pleasant Grove baseball’s Darrin Henry is among the coaches who participate in the Especially For Athletes program. (Photo by Kurt Johnson)

The program is designed to impact players on the field as well as off of it.

“We try to be as classy, have as good an attitude as possible, always be helping people, always serving the community, doing things to help out around here because our community is always backing us up,” Payton Henry said. “It’s a great program and I really like it. These wristbands say ‘Eyes up, do the work,’ and I think that’s kind of a good reminder for me, don’t let anybody down and always be doing something nice, or be nice to someone you don’t think you need to be nice to.”

The founder of Especially for Athletes is Dustin Smith, who believes that athletes can always use a reminder to take advantage of their time in the spotlight, or the “Sportlight” as he calls it, to make a difference for students who don’t have that built-in set of friends.

“We have talks all the time about how to treat your mother, how to treat girls and how to treat other people, and that kind of stuff’s more important to me than anything,” Coach Henry said. I’ve got a chance to build 35 young men here and hopefully we can keep doing that. Any time we can serve others, we’re doing well. We talk about serving our teammates all the time and this winter we went up and served the homeless, we fed them,  and we went and talked to them. Any time we can realize how good we have it and how well we can treat other people are good times.”

While Payton sees himself as someone who has always tried to do good things, he believes the wristband is a nice reminder to keep him on track.

“Sometimes Iin-the-sportlight need to look at the bracelet a little more when I play baseball, but that’s all right,” Payton said. “Emotions get blaring and you get going, but it’s always a good reminder and I try to keep in the back of my head and remind myself not to look stupid or something like that.

“Just growing up with this team, and growing up with amazing coaches, I’ve always been taught to respect people and do the right thing. It’s changed me because it gives me new challenges like to go say hi to someone new a day or just try to pick somebody up or maybe just talk to them if they’re feeling down, but I feel like I’m just the same kind of guy.”

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