Through social media, community involvement and academic pursuit, the Bowdoin football team is building stronger connections within the team and with the Bowdoin community this off-season. Under the new leadership of Coach J.B. Wells, the team has been “playing” in the Bowdoin Football League (BFL), a competition that allows players to earn points for their team for participating and excelling at various activities around campus.

“[It’s a way] to be competitive when you don’t have your sport to be competitive with,” Wells said. “I’ve been doing in years past [while coaching at Endicott College] to create some competition, some camaraderie, some team chemistry in the off-season.”

The BFL divides the team into six teams, all named after a piece of Bowdoin history (the “Explorers” after Admiral Perry, the “Colonels” after Joshua Chamberlain, for example). One junior serves as the “general manager” of each team and drafted the players. The players gain points for academics, athletics, community service, support at other Bowdoin athletics and non-athletic events, and positive social media.

“In high school my football team were all really close because we had all been growing up together,” player Nadim Elhage ’16 said. “[With the BFL], we’re learning about each other in a way we haven’t before, so it’s building unbelievable team camaraderie.”

From this inter-team competition, the team has bonded with each other and their coaches, since one coach is paired with each team.

“It’s a way for our coaching staff to get to know our players and a chance for our players to get to know our staff,” Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan said. “And also to emphasize something that’s really important to Coach Wells—members of our programs being involved in many areas across campus.”

This involvement includes attendance at other Bowdoin teams’ games throughout the year in hopes of building a fan base for their games in the fall.

“As our coach says, in order to have a fan you have to be a fan,” Elhage said. “So we’re trying to go to as many sporting events as we can to cheer on Bowdoin athletics and hope that in the fall they’ll be out in the stands.”

Both the players and Wells acknowledge the odd tension with this system of selflessness and competition: the players support others (their teammates, Bowdoin athletic teams) yet gain points for doing these good gestures.

“As Wells notes, the team culture built in the process of this structured competition is the ultimate goal.

“I want them to get into the habit of encouraging their teammates,” Wells said. “I think we live in a society that can be very negative. I’m trying to get the guys…to put up each other in a positive way.”

This positivity permeates in part through the team’s surge of social media, an outlet many teams use to promote themselves and other teams. With tweets giving shoutouts to hard-working teammates, other athletic teams’ events or any positive Bowdoin spirit, the players’ twitter accounts have been spreading the “Bowdoin football brand,” as Elhage said, to students, alumni and prospective students.

“It [is] a way for senior football guys across the pond in Italy or China studying to keep in touch a bit with the guys and hear about what’s going on back home,” said next year’s captain captain Parker Mundt ’16, who is currently studying abroad in China.

By using the hashtag #forwardthewhite, the team has found another way to extend the Bowdoin football presence to Bowdoin football alumni, connecting with the traditional Bowdoin fight song, “Forward the White.”

Sung after every Bowdoin football win, this fight song was originally a winning poem for the Bowdoin Prize Song Contest in 1913. As a blurb on the football team’s website describes, teams used to be identified solely by their school color, not mascot. Bowdoin was “the white” and the song pays homage to that.

As much as the team’s initiatives channel the past, ultimately they demonstrate the wider reshaping of the team under new leadership this season.

“It’s a complete difference,” Elhage said. “[BFL] is building something and [making us feel] as if we’re a part of something, more than it’s been in years past.”

By “watering the bamboo,” a metaphor well-used by Wells, the team hopes to have sown the seeds—watered the bamboo—for a larger payoff in the fall and years to come.

“I think the team bond we’re building now will continue through the summer into the fall [and] hopefully help us win a lot more games than we have the past couple years,” Elhage said.