In partnership with the Matt Wyble Team of Century 21 New Millennium, the Severna Park Voice’s Student-Athlete of the Month series seeks to recognize the many student-athletes in our area who make an impact not necessarily by way of statistics or stardom, but by their unique contributions. The quiet leader, the solid role player, the glue guy or gal, the community voice on or off the field — those are the kids we seek to recognize. Do you know a young person in our community making a positive impact through or alongside sports? Nominate them by contacting Colin Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every team needs a player whose entire mindset revolves around togetherness and inclusion.
At Severna Park, that player is Peyton Sullivan.
As a member of the Falcons’ basketball and softball teams, Sullivan takes on the role of binding the team together through her words and actions.
“Togetherness and being included has been very important to me for as long as I can remember,” said Sullivan, a junior. “My parents taught me the ‘Golden Rule’ at a young age, treat others the way you want to be treated, and I try to stick to that.”
Recently, Sullivan extended her approach beyond the school and into the rest of the county as Severna Park’s representative on the Student Athlete Advisory Council. Sullivan took part in a panel discussion at the AACPS Spring Coaches Professional Development meeting at Broadneck High School in which coaches and student-athletes had collaborative discourse about education in sports. Coaches were able to hear firsthand from student-athletes what is most important to them in a team or sports setting.
“It was very empowering to help these coaches with the subjects they thought they needed to work on,” said Sullivan. “The specific questions I was able to answer were along the lines of techniques in unifying a team and having a personable relationship with their players.”
As a committed student-athlete, Sullivan has to carve out time for her responsibilities. She is a member of the National Honors Society with a 4.31 GPA and on the Principal’s Honor Roll while taking AP courses. She also is involved with multiple organizations such as One Love, Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy and Young Life.
She received the softball team’s Sportsmanship Award last season, and her head coach, Meredith McAlister, recounts that Sullivan forced her way onto the varsity team as a freshman in 2018 by her skill and athletic ability but also by her sheer eagerness, willingness and demonstrated effort.
“We were looking at a couple of freshman players who all had similar ability and we wanted someone who could run bases, who would work as a backup and just be a sponge, learning and growing with those upperclassmen,” said McAlister.
On the last day of tryouts, the coaches asked the girls to run bases as part of a scrimmage. Sullivan outlasted everyone and kept coming back to first base for another round, insisting she could do it all day. “That day, our staff unanimously put Peyton on the varsity team,” McAlister said.
McAlister also recounted a time when Sullivan took the initiative to bring younger players into the fold during travel team workouts.
“We were working out with our summer travel team and there were two younger girls who were playing catch on the field next to us,” McAlister said. “I walked over and said, ‘Hey Peyton, who is that over there?’ She said, ‘That’s so-and-so, do you want me to go over and see if they want to work out with us?’ She knew what the right thing to do was before I could even get it out of my mouth. A lot of teenagers either wouldn’t have wanted to offer others to join us, would have felt too awkward to go over and offer, or would have been too lazy to run all the way over and ask. It’s those simple day-to-day things that really set Peyton apart.”
Sullivan expressed gratitude to her parents, brother and coach McAlister for helping her thrive in sports, and she said she keeps her guiding principles in mind when in a team setting.
“Being a teammate, to me, is not only someone you are on a team with, but someone you can go to if you need something, like built-in family,” Sullivan said. “For high schools sports you see your team almost every day, so it’s important to have a good relationship with them. A leader is not someone who bosses their team around. As a leader, your job is to ensure everyone feels welcome and allowed to be themselves.”