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Student-Athletes Reach Out

By Paige Brown

Student athletes all around campus are becoming more involved in the community. The teams are working with groups locally and nationally to help in all different ways.

The CCSU student-athlete community outreach program is reaching all mediums of volunteerism, from reading to elementary children to hosting matches to raise awareness for breast cancer.

“We get a lot of calls from around the state asking for our student-athletes to be involved,” said Molly McCarthy, Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance & Student Services. “The word got out that our students were interested.”

McCarthy manages the daily calls that come in from all different groups and organizations asking for the athletes to be involved and help out. She strives to accommodate every group that asked for involvement by giving ideas to coaches and keeping up continuing relationships that they have made.

“Some community outreach that we will do will be one-time shots, because it’s a one-time event,” she explained, “but what were really trying to do is not just that, but develop real relationships with groups.”

One group that the women’s basketball team has developed a relationship with is Urban Oaks Organic Farm, a non-profit in New Britain. They spend an hour and a half clearing the field and setting up for the farmers market.

Interval House, a domestic violence shelter in Hartford. is another long-developed relationship that the athletes have made over almost three and a half years. The men’s basketball team regularly visits and helps clean the facility and do activities with the children.

Along with the basketball teams, the men’s and women’s golf teams, the volleyball team and even the swim team are becoming more involved in community outreach. On Friday, November 1, the swim team hosted the New Britain Boys and Girls Club for a swim clinic.

“We do that a few times a year and also send other teams over there just to participate, whether its basketball or reading or just shooting pool, just to bridge that gap,” said McCarthy, referring the Boys and Girls Club.

The women’s golf team has taken part in the First Tee of Connecticut in Cromwell, Conn., a youth development organization that utilizes golf.

Gina Grant of the women’s golf team explained, “they usually have sessions once a week with the kids that we’re able to go to for like an hour to two hours just working with the kids, playing with them. We use snag equipment, which is just oversized golf equipment that makes it easier for them to play.”

Grant, a senior at CCSU, enjoys playing with the kids and teaching them how to take shots. “They really love golf. We play a lot of games and they have a lot of fun. It’s good,” she said.

The men’s golf team also spends their weekends with kids, reading to them at a local school in New Britain.

“We read to the fourth graders at Lincoln Elementary School,” said Jack Ayers, sophomore on the men’s golf team. “We get there on Friday mornings and hang out with the kids and then we read a chapter of a book every week.”

All of the players on the team participate in interacting with the kids as well as the coach. The players and the kids enjoy the time they spend together and Ayers likes building the small relationships with each of them.

“I’m fortunate enough to work with my coach, Monte Mullen,” said Ayers. “We work in the ESL class (English as a Second Language) and they are kind of a tough group of kids. It’s good to build strong relationships with them and there are some kids there who need help and that’s what we’re there for.”

The volleyball team has participated in multiple outreach programs, from hosting the Dig Pink Match to raise awareness for breast cancer to helping set up and participate in walks on and off campus.

Veronica Bann, senior volleyball player, is happy to help out the community and be involved in all different events.

“We helped out the Connecticut Children’s Hospital in the Spring and we all went and signed little volleyballs and posters and interacted with the children,” she said, “they seemed to really enjoy it and we really enjoyed it as well.”

Bann explained that the volleyball team has volunteered for the March of Dimes, setting up stations and cheering on the runners and walkers. “It was fun,” she said, “We had bubbles and chalk and little fun activities for the walkers to do.”

Along with the March of Dimes, they participated in an MS walk. She explained that there is a staff member at CCSU who is very involved in the team whose husband has MS, so they supported him by walking.

The CCSU Athletic department works with the city of New Britain closely to help the children in the community make and keep goals for their future.

McCarthy stated, “In a couple weeks, we will be having students from the New Britain Truancy Project come onto campus, there is a large truancy problem apparently in New Britain. We are bringing some middle school students onto campus to try to engage with our student-athletes to show them what college is like.”

They hope to teach the children that going to college and even becoming a college level athlete can be a potential goal.

The outreach programs are starting to span not only to local groups and organizations, but national and annual events, such as the National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

On January 26, the CCSU athletic department hosted a free clinic for young female athletes to come to CCSU and learn from athletes from women’s soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, softball and golf.

“There were kids ranging from three to ten and we had every sports team do a different event,” said Bann. “Girl’s soccer had little goalies and the girls could make tow teams and they would play soccer and we had a little drill for volleyball and would teach them how to pass and set…it was really fun getting the girls involved in sports and getting them to be active.”

Tommy Meade, Assistant Communication and Media Services Director, explained that this was their second year hosting the National Girls and Women in Sports Day at CCSU.

“It’s been a pretty successful thing. We always get a pretty good turnout,” said Meade. “A lot of young ladies come out from around the area. The entire purpose of the event is to promote women in athletics and all of the positive things that are associated with women in athletics whether it’s confidence or good grades or any of those positive attributes that you would get being involved in that type of thing. They are trying to get them involved at a young age.”

The overall idea of the community outreach program is to get student-athletes involved in helping out within their community. Not only do the groups and organizations like having them there to help, but also the athletes love doing it.

Ayers hopes him and his team will start doing more service to the community in the future. “It really brings our teams together and its fun helping out. You feel good about yourself.”