When building a new program from the ground up, bonding is crucial to success on and off the field.

So on Saturday, about 30 members of the Great Crossing High School football team were breaking a sweat helping Habitat for Humanity at its current build site in Georgetown.

Warhawks coach Paul Rains said activities like Saturday’s help new teammates bond together, but also teaches them valuable lessons for off the field. Principal Joy Lusby has asked all coaches to have their teams participate in community service projects.

“She, like myself, is big into teaching these kids there is something bigger out there than just themselves,” he said. That mission is reflected on the team’s shirts emblazoned with a crest that includes the words “Higher Purpose.”

“Team sports is great to teach serving others,” Rains said. “This is something I have always done. I think it is great for the boys and provides lessons that will carry on for their lives.”

The football team also participated in a service project in Lexington — Books, Barbers and Ballers — where they gave out 150 backpacks and school supplies. The Habitat project is the third event for the football team.

“You had a high school with 3,000 people, so a lot of them didn’t know each other or didn’t play team sports,” Rains said. “Now that we have come together this is a great opportunity to get to know each other, work with each other and do something good for somebody.

“It is such a good, Christian organization. I think they have built 40 houses in Scott County. To be able to help families in need with a hand up and do our little part in this teaches them. They always need a little bit of muscle and the players get a little workout today.”

The players embraced the opportunity to grow together and help others.

“It definitely builds teamwork, because if we can’t work together on something as simple as digging a hole it will be rough on the football field,” said Trenton Allen, a senior.

“I get a new school, they get a new home,” said sophomore Jeremy Godfrey. “We get a lot of new equipment and this is just giving back. You sleep better at night knowing you helped somebody.”

Levi Whalen, a junior who moved to Georgetown, said this experience was a lot different than what he had experienced at Tates Creek in Lexington.

“There we just did fundraisers, selling cookie dough. This is much better. It gives us a chance to give back because not everyone is as fortunate,” he said.

Parents, Habitat leaders and the homeowner were all appreciative of having the young men out to help.

“We love that we have kids out here helping,” said Katie Garnett, volunteer coordinator for Habitat. “It is great to see them give back to their neighbors and help.”

“This is teaching them humility and supporting each other,” said Kellie Lee, whose son Bryce was on the site working as well as her. “They are teaching them to be a productive citizen. At some point in our lives, we all need a helping hand and this is teaching them to help others.”

The homeowner, Adam Cormier, was putting in his sweat equity along with the team.

“It says a lot about them and it is very much appreciated that they are out here,” he said.

Rains knows the impact of working like they did Saturday will pay dividends down the road.

“We are all about teaching these guys about being a real man. Too many times, young boys get false visions of what it is about. I think we have been teaching our guys we have to help other people. We talked the other day about empathy and putting yourself in another man’s shoes and helping out where you can help out,” he said. “We gauge our success on what kind of men you will be 10-15 years from now. What kind of father, what kind of husband you will be. Lay the groundwork to be the best kind of father, husband you can be. They need to see it modeled out here.”

It is already resonating with the players Saturday.

“Whenever Coach Rains explains the vision of manhood, I was ready to do whatever he told me to do,” Allen said. “I was coming to this no matter what.”

“We’ll just not be friends in school; this is a brotherhood forever,” Whalen said.

“Selling cookies or something doesn’t last long. This will last forever,” Godfrey said. “I’m proud to be on this team, and I can see myself if I still live in Georgetown to bring my kids by here and say, ‘I built this house.’”

Steve McClain can be reached at smcclain@news-graphic.com.

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