While it might be the season of giving as the Christmas holiday approaches, some University of South Dakota student athletes try to live out the season of giving all of the time.
Morgan Hancock, a senior on the USD softball team, said representing the Coyotes goes beyond the field of play.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in just playing yo—ur sport, when in reality there is a bigger picture than that,” Hancock said. “The bigger picture is the community behind the sport.”
From volunteering at elementary schools, sending cards to soldiers or picking up trash in road ditches, various teams are participating in community service initiatives.
A number of athletes volunteer at schools in Vermillion because of their team’s requirements. Recently the men’s and women’s basketball teams have started encouraging Jolley Elementary students to read more.
Aside from promoting literacy, junior Keyen Lage and sophomore Jet Moreland have fun with the children by eating lunch or playing at recess with them.
“I want to be a good role model and a positive influence, because you never know what’s going on at home,” Lage said.
Junior Margaret McCloud, who plays center for women’s basketball, has been humbled by her experiences volunteering at the elementary schools with the women’s basketball team.
“I love seeing the effect it has on people,” McCloud said. “Volunteering also opens my eyes and makes me realize the things I take for granted.”
Some athletes find the motivation to give back to others from their upbringing.
“My biggest motivation to serve is my faith,” said Lage. “I’m always trying to put others first.”
However, each person does community service for different reasons.
“I enjoy it, and it is important to give back to the community,” said Moreland, who volunteers alongside Lage at local elementary schools.
Football’s defensive line coach Marquice Williams quoted Chicago Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman, who has a philosophy about his players volunteering in the community.
“If you aren’t doing something right, you’re not helping the team,” Williams said. “So I translate it to, if you aren’t doing something in the community, you aren’t helping the community.”
Athletes are encouraged to do community service in a variety of ways, and some of the coaches encourage it more than others.
For the softball team, the coaches emphasize becoming the most well-rounded people possible.
“Our coach wants us to leave the program by being the best athlete, best student and best person we could,” Hancock said.
An idea commonly shared among athletes is that volunteering makes a better athlete.
“I look up to a lot of professional athletes, and you see them donating money or helping out with fundamental camps,” Moreland said. “It builds confidence when people look up to you and makes you feel stronger as an athlete.”
Hancock believes volunteering is worth it, especially after seeing the impact it can have on people’s lives.
“In the past, we have (written) letters to send soldiers during the holidays,” Hancock said. “Once, a soldier Facebooked the girl who sent it and told us that was the thing that got him through the holiday season.”