Molly Livingston, left, 14, Robert Lovings, 15, Brandon Isabell, 15, and Brieana Schneider, 17, play volleyball during the Sun Prairie High School Athletes Committed “Dry Party” last month.

ANDY MANIS — For the State Journal

SUN PRAIRIE — A new initiative at Sun Prairie High School is encouraging students to embody the practices of a true athlete on a number of fronts — from abstaining from drinking and drugs to developing good training habits.

Called Sun Prairie High School Athletes Committed, it has adopted the concepts and principles of a national initiative called Life of an Athlete developed by the American Athletic Institute. That program emphasizes research about the impact of drugs and alcohol on youth, the importance of good training habits and other responsibilities of a model athlete such as citizenship.

"It really brings our athletic code to life and makes it part of our culture and not just a piece of paper," said James McClowry, athletics and activities director at Sun Prairie High School. "We're putting our kids out there to be the ones who are making a difference."

The Sun Prairie group, which is open to all students who want to embody the principles of a model athlete, attracted 50 students initially and another 50 now want to join in, McClowry said.

The group recently put on a Life of An Athlete presentation at the high school for parents, student-athletes, coaches, educators and community members.

Sydney Stiener, 17, a senior, said she felt the impact of the presentation later that night when her volleyball team had a huge game against Middleton.

"It really made you want to work hard to be a better athlete," said Sydney, who also competes in gymnastics and track.

The group also organized a recent "Dry Party" at the school with snacks, an inflatable jousting ring and obstacle course and use of the pool and basketball and volleyball courts. More activities will be planned for later this year.

Rachel Jorgensen, 14, a freshman who competes in volleyball, gymnastics and soccer, said she thinks the initiative will really kick in when the organizers can get more students to join as freshmen and sophomores.

McClowry said the motivation for the program was seeing students who were not meeting their potential on and off the field and therefore hurting themselves and their fellow teammates. The program is designed to give participating students the tools to hold others accountable, he said.

"We have gotten some flak for being in it," said Collin Enstad, 17, a senior who competes in football, wrestling and lacrosse. "But you have to stand up for what you believe in."