Greetings from the land of freeze tag and abnormally warm winter weather!
Each week I take a Mount Holyoke varsity or club sports team to the Peck School in Holyoke, MA, where they teach an hour-long after school program on their sport, drills, teamwork and sportsmanship. The goal is to introduce elementary age kids to a variety of healthy exercises and lifestyle options in Holyoke, where options for many are limited due to socioeconomic status. Another goal is to make the presence of women college students normal for the kids so they see higher education as a logical step after completing high school.
Mount Holyoke College Sports Club has been tearing through the semester and started a brand new 8 week program session with the Volleyball team last week. Instead of the usual begging for games like Fishy Fishy Cross My Ocean (a variation of Sharks and Minnows) or tag, the kids dove right into passing the volleyballs provided by Mount Holyoke with our varsity athletes for over 45 MINUTES. This is a big deal. It's generally difficult to keep the solid attention of 8-10 year olds, but the athletes' enthusiasm and the kids' energy provided the platform necessary to lead a fantastic session. The kids had competitions based on who could have the most passes back and forth, who could spike the hardest, and how many times they could juggle the ball themselves.
The work by the volleyball team reflects the solid commitment from our NCAA Division III varsity athletes, coaches, and administration. We have opened up the program now to club sports as well, giving any extra spots to the Club Sports Council and giving them the same volunteer opportunities as varsity athletes. We've had Rugby and Ice Hockey so far and both went incredibly well, and the kids love the new athletic opportunities in handling a rugby ball or putting on hockey uniform (they were adorable in the huge helmets).
However, I'll be a senior next year and due to a torn hamstring last year while rowing, I am no longer a varsity athlete, so I'm looking at how to best transition the program to new students leaders. Alan Bloomgarden (CBL Coordinator), Lori Hendricks (Associate Athletic Director) and I are looking at creating a 2-3 person team to lead the program instead of only one person, as it is now. Right now, the only athletes who can commit to Peck School year round have morning practices since CONNECTIONS runs during normal 4:30-6:30 PM sports practices. A 2-3 athlete team can have different active seasons from each other and therefore could take sections of the year to facilitate the MHC Sports Club and work together with Holyoke Schools, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and Community Based Learning. We have the job description out and are looking for athletes right now! Exciting!
I'll keep you updated on how MHC Sports Club is transforming into a more effective and sustainable program. Until next time!
Stephanie Roses, Class of 2013, Major in Biological Sciences