Merrill Fire Department hosts first Bluejay Team Building opportunity
The Merrill Fire Department (MFD) hosted the first ever Bluejay Team Building Opportunity last Monday night at the fire station. The 16 members of the Merrill Girls Swim Team were the first to take advantage of this opportunity. Prior to the fall sports season starting, Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) sports teams, clubs and organizations were invited by the fire department to come in with their group for a modified firefighter combat challenge, similar to the ones shown on ESPN. The Aug. 20 event proved to be a huge success.
With 16 members on the Merrill Girls Swim Team, they were divided into four smaller teams chosen by their coach to include a mix of upper and lower classmen. Each of the four teams competed in seven different challenges. The challenges included: highrise pack carry, hose advance, ladder carry, dummy drag, suction hose relay, truck pull and map drill. Merrill Fire staff explained each drill and then kept the time for each team to complete that challenge. Throughout the challenges, firefighters and members of the swim team supported and cheered each team as they ran through the course.
“Even though they were split up in teams, they supported each other as one the entire time all while having fun,” noted Firefighter/Paramedic Jon Leiskau who co-created the Bluejay Team Building Opportunity. After competition was complete, the swim team enjoyed some root beer floats provided by the fire department while waiting for the final results from the various challenges to be tabulated.
The team building opportunity is beneficial for both MAPS and the MFD. Sports teams like Girls Swim get the chance to work out and grow together as a team.
Kristie Winter, Merrill Girls Swim coach, had this to say, “The girls had so much fun they didn’t even notice they were working hard. It was nice to see them work together with the various tasks and learn as they completed them.”
Firefighters and paramedics work as a team every day they come to work. Many times that work is physically demanding which once again tied into one of the benefits for the swim team.
“It was a great team bonder and still had a nice physical aspect to continue our dryland strength training and conditioning,” stated MHS Coach Winter.
While the fire department is always interested in partnering with community groups, they also benefit from an opportunity like this to showcase themselves to students who are still contemplating what they might like to do in the future after high school. Recruitment and retention of firefighters and paramedics is a national topic. The shortage of these positions is well documented. Any insight into the job of an emergency service responder might just spark enough interest for one of the participants to seek out more information. Even if participants don’t have an interest in the job of a irefighter/paramedic, they definitely learn more about themselves and how being a part of a team is something bigger than themselves.
Once again, Coach Winter echoed those thoughts, “The event was a great opportunity for the athletes to do something different and out of their comfort zone. They learned many life lessons not necessarily found in the pool or at school, including a peek at a possible career.”
For those involved with the event that night, there was nothing but praise for the members of the Merrill Girls Swim Team and the Merrill Fire Department. Everyone agreed it was a huge success.
“I was very impressed with the amount of effort, determination, and enthusiasm the girls put worth,” noticed Merrill Firefighter/Paramedic Ross Witucki, the other co-creator of the Bluejay Team Building Opportunity.
The Merrill Fire Department streamed the first ever Bluejay Team Building Opportunity live through their Facebook account. You can watch those videos by going to Facebook and searching “Merrill Fire Department.” Combined those videos have been viewed over 5,000 times and have received multiple “likes” and positive comments.
The fire department anticipates more sports teams and MAPS organizations will be contacting them soon to schedule their own team bonder. Merrill Wrestling Head Coach Brian Suchocki intends to bring his team over when the winter sports season begins and Kristie Winter plans to bring the swim team back again next year.
While the Merrill Fire Department is excited to find the next Bluejay Firefighter/Paramedic, they are really glad to be encouraging Merrill youth and facilitating the camaraderie that can only be achieved when joining a team or being part of an organization.