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As a student-athlete at Arcadia, there are a lot of aspects that make me proud to be a part of the athletics community: whether it’s the mutual respect and support between teams or the work ethic and solid culture that every team strives for. Arcadia student-athletes contribute so much to the school’s atmosphere and excellence.
I am especially proud of the way in which student-athletes engage in community service. Teams conduct free clinics and camps, make donations and fundraise for local organizations, and look for any other ways to help our community.
The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is a group of leaders from each athletic team that meets monthly and comes up with initiatives for the athletic community. One major function of this committee is to brainstorm community service opportunities for teams to take part in. This really demonstrates how athletes at Arcadia are willing to go beyond their sports and represent Arcadia in improving the community and area around them.
An amazing opportunity was presented to SAAC: A local group was having weekly special olympics volleyball practices, and they wanted volunteers to help run practices and interact with the players. This was a perfect option, as it was sports-oriented and could involve every member of a team. During last semester while everything was virtual, student-athletes had done a Zumba dance class over Zoom with the same group, and both sides had found it to be fun and rewarding.
I am a SAAC representative for the softball team, so when I presented my team with this idea, they were excited and willing to participate. The women’s basketball team was the first team to help out with the practices, and they had posted about how great of an experience it was. When it was our turn on Nov. 14, the team gathered outside of the school where the volleyball practices were held, ready to help the coaches and players. Many of us had never played volleyball and felt that our skills were insufficient to be teaching it, but the volunteer coaches assured us that our effort and enthusiasm would be enough.
The practice commenced. My team, a few volunteer coaches, and about 30 or more players crowded the gym. The coaches had given us instructions and outlined how the practice was going to go, so we led warm ups with stretching, split the players into groups for a rotation of drills, then interspersed ourselves and the players into teams for games. The games were competitive and full of energy; it barely felt like we were doing service because it was so enjoyable.
After the practice, the volunteer coach, who happened to be a graduate of Arcadia, shared how the whole group had such an appreciation for us. He felt like it had been the best practice they had had all year. As everyone walked out, the players were giving us fist bumps and high-fives. It made us feel like we had made an impact and formed valuable connections through sport. The team has actually talked about going back to another practice because it was such a worthwhile experience.
Connecting with the community through sports is so special because it creates common ground no matter who you are helping. Service can be so gratifying if it involves an activity you are passionate about, so I am glad that the student-athletes at Arcadia are taking part in opportunities such as this.