By Kent Smith, CAA
We continually ask ourselves, "What is the mission of our high school athletic programs?” For some members of our community or for some parents, the answer would center on how well the team does in terms of wins and losses. This viewpoint would evaluate the season based upon winning the league title or how far a team advances in the tournament.
Most of us are keenly aware of the phrase "Educational Athletics." We associate educational athletics as being the intentional efforts of our coaches to teach skills, behaviors, actions and attitudes that extend far beyond the X's and O's of our sports. Some of these positive character traits are: hard work, discipline, teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, respect and learning how to win and lose with dignity.
How many of us have thought about community service as another character trait that can be used in our pursuit of educational athletics? We define community service as giving back to the school and surrounding community through volunteerism. Service is doing something for somebody else without any expectation of getting anything in return. It is a selfless way for teams to give back to their communities. Unfortunately, in today's society, the concept of service is foreign to many young people.
At Orrville High School, we do not require teams to perform community service projects but ask them to strongly consider performing at least one each year. We try to emphasize that community service does not have to be simply raising money and donating it to a worthy cause or organization. Community service can be the giving of time, talent or labor to a worthy or needy recipient.
In the case of our football program, head coach Doug Davault has taken this to new heights by requiring each grade level within his football program to perform separate community service projects during the summer months and throughout the school year. It then becomes almost a contest to see what they come up with to out-do the other classes. In the course of a calendar year, our football team will easily perform 6-10 community service projects. Many of them are as simple as going to read to elementary classes, raking senior citizens leaves or helping officiate youth league games at our local Boys' and Girls' Club.
Coach Davault feels, "Community service not only benefits the recipients of the good deeds but also benefits my team by infusing leadership skills in my athletes. For example, when the junior football players chose to have a work day at our local park, they had to organize their teammates, coordinate their efforts with city employees, and gather paint, brushes and other tools before spending a day of work at the park. This creates team building, organization skills, and memories outside of the games. I would also contend that the athletes end up benefiting as much as the recipients."
With Orrville High School being a small school, many of the efforts related to community service tend to overlap between our sports teams and our student groups. (Student Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Earth Science Club, National Honor Society, etc.) With many of the athletes being the "doers" and "leaders" in the school, they pick out a service project and get going on it. The overlap of our teams and clubs turns out to be a positive as our projects pull in an even broader base of ownership.
Examples of recent team service projects are:
- Relay For Life – Each athletic team gets pledges and walks in one-hour shifts with their team. When students are on multiple teams or clubs, this involves multiple hours of walking and pledges.
- Fight Like A Girl – Our girls tennis team and volleyball teams sold pink breast cancer awareness shirts as well as providing pink ribbons and public-service announcements that were read to educate and inform. All money raised was sent to the Susan Koman Fund.
- Operation Gridiron Airlift – In conjunction with a neighboring rival school, we collected footballs to send to the troops along with cash donations for personal hygiene items. We sent more than 100 footballs along with close to $2,000 in cash that was used to purchase personal hygiene products.
- Adopt-A-Child – Athletes from our Fellowship of Christian Athletes adopt between three and five children every Christmas season and provide them with gifts of both clothing and toys. These children are selected with the assistance of our local Salvation Army. The money used for this is raised when our athletes donate their time parking cars at home football games.
- Smith/Orr Homestead – This non-profit historical home in Orrville will call our school whenever it needs help with manual labor, painting or other odd jobs.
- Orrville Public Library – The library staff knows that our football team is there whenever it needs boxes of books moved or shelving re-arranged. Our athletes are also part of a program called “Red Riders Read,” which is when our athletes read and have lunch with our elementary students.
- Orrville Area Boys’ and Girls’ Club – This facility is directly across the street from our school. Our teams offer themselves for tutoring to younger students as well as volunteer to coach youth teams and even officiate various youth sport leagues. Our athletes also spent two weekends helping lay decorative landscaping block in front of the facility this past fall.
- Orrville Fire Department Canned Food Drive – Each holiday season our athletes volunteer their time assisting our local fire department in the collection of canned goods and then help distribute them to families within our community.
- Raking Leaves – Local churches give names of shut-ins who need their leaves raked. In the winter, many of these same shut-ins have their driveways shoveled as well.
- Assist In The Moving Of Schools – Recently, Orrville Schools opened up a new elementary building and a new middle school. All text books, teachers’ supplies and miscellaneous furniture were moved for the school system. This job involved more than 40 athletes working during several evenings and weekends.
This listing is far from complete but gives an idea of the kinds of things that can be done. There are two types of community service projects – those where money is raised to donate to a needy cause and those that simply involve time and effort. Coach Davault feels “Community service is something all teams should strongly consider. Our goal is to develop the complete student-athlete. In my mind, there is no doubt that our athletes will be far more likely to give back to others around them through volunteerism as they transition into adulthood due to these experiences.”
About the Author: Kent Smith, CAA, is director of athletics at Orrville (Ohio) High School.